A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points to drowsy driving as a leading preventable cause of vehicle accidents in the nation, including New York. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 29 and shift workers working night schedules tend to be more likely to drive while drowsy and be involved in a collision. Caffeine and other stimulants help for a time, but the human need to sleep will typically overpower supplements.
The study’s motor vehicle accident statistics showed a significantly increased likelihood of being involved in a crash between midnight and 6 a.m., and there is a smaller secondary spike in the early afternoon. The study’s authors theorize that these peaks correspond to the human circadian rhythm.
Drowsy driving accidents are predominantly single-vehicle collisions in which the driver makes no effort to prevent the wreck, due to being asleep at the wheel. Medical conditions such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy may lead to drowsy driving accidents. The risk of such accidents increases when certain prescription medications or alcohol is involved. To date, the study’s authors claim that rumble strips have proven to be an effective alert system for drowsy drivers, reducing the accident rate by an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent in areas where such strips are present.
An attorney seeking compensation for the consequences of an accident caused by a drowsy driver may need to begin with the driver’s overall record, including medical records and time cards to determine if the driver had a pattern of being sleepy behind the wheel. Because there is no reliable test for sleepiness, the attorney might take into account new medications, a change in shift schedules or normal sleeping hours to effectively determine liability and pursue compensation.