Texans Need to be Aware of Our Drowsy Driving Problem
Recently, Texans lost an hour that we won’t get back till November due to Daylight Savings Time. Many of you reading this may still be feeling the effects of losing that time. Unfortunately, while we’re all adjusting, it could lead to increased drowsiness and additional hazards on the road.
The problem of drowsy driving, unfortunately, is not limited to daylight savings. In 2015 alone, drowsy driving was implicated as the cause of as many as 90,000 crashes, which injured at least 41,000 people and caused over 800 deaths. The NHTSA warns that these numbers could be higher given that many other incidences of drowsy driving crashes were likely never reported.
Between 1998 and 2008, (according to information by the AAA Foundation) drowsy driving may have been to blame for:
- 7% of all collisions in which an automobile had to be towed away from the scene of an accident
- 13% of vehicular crashes that ended with at least one hospitalized person
- 17% of all vehicular fatalities
Drowsy Driving Is Worst in Texas
Sadly, data from the CDC, NHTSA, AAA and other sources shows that fatal drowsy driver crashes are most prevalent right here in Texas. One comprehensive study found that the highest number of drowsy driving fatalities in 2015 occurred in Texas.
To better understand how serious this is, consider the following: the state with the most drowsy driving fatalities was Texas, with 159 fatalities. The state with the second highest number of fatalities? Alabama – with 43!
In 2017, drowsy drivers caused over 9,700 crashes in the Lone Star State. This an average of more than 26 crashes every day! Figures from the Texas Department of Transportation indicate that sleep-related incidences that year included 1,643 non-life-threatening crashes, 160 fatal crashes, and 582 possibly-serious crashes.
Why Do So Many Texas Drivers Get Behind the Wheel While Drowsy?
Some people refer to drowsy driving as driver fatigue. This is because drowsy driving mostly happens when a driver is so tired that he or she isn’t capable of operating a motor vehicle safely. A tired driver inadvertently puts him or herself, his or her passengers, pedestrians, and other road users in danger.
Common situations that may result in drowsy driving include the following.
- Inadequate sleep, or sleep that’s interrupted or fragmented
- Those with sleep disorders, including narcolepsy and chronic insomnia
- Disruptions in one’s sleep pattern and/or circadian rhythm
- Medications, especially sedatives and hypnotics
- Taking alcohol and narcotic drugs
- Prolonged driving without getting sufficient rest and sleep
One NBC report states that in Texas, drowsy driving fatalities are 6.8 times more likely to happen in rural locations than in urban locations. Some people have often argued that this might be due to highway hypnosis, which may cause a driver to zone out for miles while driving.
Anyone Can Be A Drowsy Driver in Texas
Sleep deprivation is quite a common problem for adults living in the US. You probably can’t remember when you last went to bed early, had a good night’s rest, and woke up thoroughly refreshed and eager to take on your day.
In fact, DrowsyDriving.org reports that in 2005 about 60% of the American population admitted to having been behind the wheel while drowsy. The CDC adds that 1 in 25 adult drivers may have fallen asleep at the wheel in the last 30 days.
It might seem like nothing much, but missing an hour or two of sleep can have a significant impact on your driving performance and may increase your chances of causing a car accident.
You’re at an even higher risk of drowsy driving if you:
- Are a commercial driver operating heavy vehicles such as trucks, buses, and tractor trailers
- Are a shift worker who works for long shifts or takes night shifts
- Have an untreated sleep disorder (e.g., sleep apnea)
- Are on medication that causes drowsiness
- Are fatigued or sleep deprived
- Live in a household where there’s a young child who keeps you up at night
- Are driving alone on a long, boring, rural road – especially if it’s dark
Consequences of Drowsy Driving in Texas
The CDC warns that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Studies have proven that:
- Being sleep deprived for 18 hours creates an effect similar to that of an individual with a BAC of 0.05%
- Sleep deprivation for 24 hours has a similar effect to that of a person with a BAC of 0.10% (the legal limit is 0.08%)
- Being drowsy will also amplify the effects of even very low amounts of alcohol
Generally, being drowsy will impair your driving in the following ways:
- Your reaction time will be slowed
- Your attention to the road will be compromised
- Your judgment on the road will also be compromised
Even if you are not part of the drowsy-driving problem, that doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by it. If you believed that a fatigued driver caused you to get seriously injured in an accident, you owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and others on the road to fight back and raise awareness about this issue.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor. Now, he uses that knowledge to anticipate opposing counsel’s arguments and protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.