Every day, it seems like there are more dangers on California’s streets and highways. Drunk driving has been and still is a genuine threat to public safety. Arrests for “drugged” driving are increasing every year. And now, “drowsy” driving is a growing concern.
Are you at risk from a drowsy driver – or at risk of being one? What if your drowsiness is mistaken for drunkenness and you’re arrested for DUI? Drowsy driving affects everybody, so keep reading to learn more.
In November, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) reminded motorists in our state that drowsy driving peaks each year when clocks are adjusted from Daylight Savings Time back to standard time.
“Every year, the time change disrupts sleep patterns and may result in sleep-deprived drivers struggling with concentration behind the wheel,” the CHP said in a press release. What are the facts about drowsy driving?
Consider these disturbing figures:
– According to the CHP, crashes with “sleepy or fatigued drivers” in the state of California increased by 48 percent in the two-year period from 2014 through 2016.
– Across the U.S., about 100,000 traffic collisions every year are linked to drowsiness.
Those most likely to drive while drowsy are adults from ages 18 to 29.
– Most traffic collisions linked to drowsiness happen between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.
– More than 70,000 serious injuries happen each year in crashes linked to drowsiness.
– And every year, drowsy driving is also linked to about 1,500 traffic fatalities.
WHO ARE THE DROWSY DRIVERS? HOW CAN YOU KEEP FROM BEING ONE?
Which drivers are most likely to drive while drowsy? It’s no surprise that crashes linked to drowsy driving involve a disproportionate number of professional drivers and especially truck drivers, as well as third-shift workers, people on certain medications, and people suffering sleep disorders.
Falling asleep at the wheel is the worst possibility, but that’s not the only problem with drowsy driving.
Like alcohol in some ways, fatigue impairs anyone’s ability to drive safely. Fatigue makes it more difficult to stay focused on the road, and it impairs a driver’s ability to make quick decisions.
Fatigued drivers usually do not have the sharpest vision, and they’ve also been known to act hostile and drive aggressively. How can you keep from becoming a drowsy driver?
Try to drive only when you feel alert and at your best, but whenever you are driving, if you begin to feel drowsy or fatigued, err on the side of caution.
Find a safe spot to park for twenty, thirty, or forty minutes, lock your doors, and have a nap or just close your eyes until you’re refreshed. Your safety – and everyone else’s – is a much higher priority than any other concern.
HOW SERIOUS IS THE DROWSY DRIVING PROBLEM?
Fatigue is such a problem for the trucking industry that the number of hours truck drivers may work is restricted under federal regulations enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Truckers must break for at least thirty minutes after eight hours of driving, and they may not drive more than eleven hours a day or seventy hours a week.
Truckers must also keep a log as evidence of their compliance with the regulations, but truck drivers still have a huge financial incentive to drive too many hours at a time.
The National Transportation Safety Board says that truck driver fatigue is responsible for twenty to forty percent of all truck accidents.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH ABOUT DROWSY DRIVING TELL US?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), four percent of the drivers in the United States admit that they drive – on a regular basis – while they’re drowsy.
That’s one driver in every twenty-five. And now, new research conducted by AAA has determined that fatigued drivers:
– are almost twice as likely to be in an accident when they sleep only five to six hours
– are four times as likely to be in an accident when they sleep only four to five hours
– are twelve times more likely to be in an accident when they sleep less than four hours
AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research, Jake Nelson, told CBS News, “Teenagers, older adults, and people who have a sleep debt are among the highest risk groups. One in five crashes where somebody dies in that crash involves a driver who was drowsy or hadn’t earned enough sleep the night before.”
IS DROWSINESS EASILY MISTAKEN FOR DRUNKENNESS?
“Driving with having only earned four to five hours of sleep in a 24-hour period can be just as impairing as driving legally drunk,” Nelson added.
And like everyone else, police officers can make mistakes. A driver may appear to be intoxicated for a number of reasons, and drowsiness is one of the top reasons.
Sleep deprivation can have almost the same effect on someone as alcohol. As you may know, the “legal limit” for intoxicated driving is a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent.
After staying awake for eighteen consecutive hours, an otherwise healthy and sober motorist drives as if he or she already had a BAC level at 0.05 percent, and after twenty-four hours without sleep, a sober motorist drives like someone who has surpassed the legal limit.
“Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence,” acting CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said earlier this year. “Drowsiness impairs judgment, performance, and reaction time just like alcohol and drugs.
Getting enough rest every day will be your best defense in reducing your chances of being involved in a collision.”
HOW CAN A DUI ATTORNEY HELP?
In Southern California, if you are wrongly accused of DUI or DUID simply because you were fatigued, how should you defend yourself? First, speak immediately with an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney.
Fight the charge. No defendant can be convicted of driving under the influence unless the state can prove that defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In Southern California, if you are charged with driving under the influence – DUI – or with driving under the influence of drugs – DUID – take your case immediately to an Orange County DUI defense attorney who will protect your rights and explain your legal options.
If you’ve been wrongly accused of DUI or DUID because you were tired, fatigued, or drowsy, a skilled DUI lawyer will fight aggressively for justice on your behalf.