As many New Jersey drivers may know, sleepiness is often involved in car accidents. According to a joint effort by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Institutes of Health, sleepiness may cause crashes as a result of driver impairment.

When drivers fail to get adequate sleep, driving may be affected by a decrease in reaction time, disturbed attention or an inability to process information properly. Some reasons this occurs are driving during normal sleep hours, not taking breaks often enough or driving for extended periods on a routine basis. Other reasons include using a sedating medication, sleep loss, some sleep disorders and drinking.

Certain groups have a higher propensity for sleepiness while driving. These groups include shift workers, drivers with untreated narcolepsy or sleep apnea and young drivers, particularly males between 16 and 29. Certain characteristics are shared when sleepiness is involved in an accident. Contributing factors include speed, the sleep schedule of the driver and the time of day the crash occurs. Usually, the driver does not attempt to avoid the crash and is the sole occupant in the vehicle.

To curtail the number of accidents related to sleepiness, the agencies offered some directives. The most important way to decrease sleep-deprived crashes is for drivers to get sufficient sleep. Other ways of stimulating alertness such as caffeinated beverages are short-lived but might allow a driver to have time to reach a sleeping area.

Drowsy Driving Responsible For Thousands Of Deaths Annually

According to a report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association, about 5,000 deaths each year can be attributed to drowsy driving. The annual cost without taking property damage into account is estimated to be $109 billion.

The danger from driving while fatigued is so extreme that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration added drowsy driving to its list of impaired driving behaviors that includes distracted driving and driving under the influence. Unfortunately, the true scope of the problem is not fully known because law enforcement may not recognize the signs of drowsy driving. Furthermore, people may not admit to driving while fatigued after an accident.

The GHSA report found that people who do shift work or work night shifts and teens or young adults tend to be the most likely to drive while fatigued. Experts are urging more public education similar to the initiatives to reduce drunk driving and increase seat belt compliance. Public education was also one of the recommendations in the report along with other suggestions such as better law enforcement training and better data tracking. With fatal motor vehicle accidents up almost 8 percent in 2015, safety advocates are looking for reasons and ways to bring those figures back down.

Car accidents caused by negligent drivers may result in life-changing injuries to others who are on the road. A person who is facing months or years of rehabilitation or who may never fully recover from such an accident might then learn that the responsible driver’s insurance company is offering insufficient compensation. An attorney might be able to negotiate a higher settlement out of court, or it might be necessary to pursue a civil lawsuit against the at-fault motorist.

When an accident is caused by motorist negligence due to sleepiness, it may result in injury to another individual. That person may wish to speak to an attorney since he or she might be faced with a financial burden due to medical care and lost wages. The attorney, after reviewing the accident, may offer insight into filing a personal injury claim.