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Denver Auto Accidents: Driving Tired Same as Driving Intoxicated


January 8, 2016

You might have thought you would only need a Denver auto accident attorney in cases of intoxicated drivers, but what about drivers who are impaired because they are overly tired? The vast majority of Coloradans would never consider driving a car while drunk an option. It doesn’t make sense why so many people will drive when they’re exhausted without a second thought to the risks they pose to themselves and others.  According to a 2005 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, a shocking 37 percent of drivers across the country admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point and 27 percent admitted they had a difficult time keeping their eyes open when driving. 

Multiple studies have proved that there are distinct similarities between the effects of lack of sleep and alcohol on a person's ability to drive.  Numerous studies have gone further to prove that sleepiness can impair driving just as much as being drunk.  A 2002 survey of police officers by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, found that 90 percent of responding officers had "at least once pulled over a driver who they expected to find intoxicated, but turned out to be not intoxicated but sleepy."  

Drowsiness has been linked to decreased reaction time, memory, coordination, alertness, decision making, and information processing. All of these effects impair a person’s driving in the same way as alcohol. To put it another way, driving while you are drowsy is very similar to driving while intoxicated.  The length of time one drives also drastically affects the quality of driving.  A report published in the Journal of Sleep Research, concluded that, “two hours of driving produced the same errors as 0.05 percent blood alcohol content.  After three hours, driver performance was equivalent to 0.08 percent, the legal blood alcohol in the United States, and after four and a half hours it matched the performance of a driver with a blood level of 0.10 percent of alcohol.”  The researchers concluded that drowsiness while driving needs to be taken seriously as it is one of the major causes of automobile accidents.  Drowsy drivers may not be aware of their reduced cognitive ability due to their lack of alertness.

In our society of go-go-go, more people are working longer hours, resulting in an increase of tired drivers on the road. During the school year, high school and college students are under pressure to stay up all night studying, often having to drive to work or campus while they are tremendously tired. These problems are intensified by the fact we live in a car culture here in the Denver area, where people feel the need to drive anytime they want to leave their home. Commercial truck drivers are especially susceptible to drowsy driving. A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study found long-haul truckers slept an average of less than five hours per day. Consequently, it is not surprising drowsy driving was found to be the probable cause of more than half of all fatal truck crashes. 

The cost of automobile accidents caused by drowsy driving across the country is upwards of thirty billion dollars with countless fatalities. Drowsy driving is a prevalent public health issue deserving of more public awareness. Recently, the National Sleep Foundation declared a Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (held annually in early November). This campaign seeks to provide public education about the risks of drowsy driving. Policy initiatives are also needed to inform the public of the dangers of driving while tired.

Mark A. Simon, Attorney at Law, is a Denver auto accident attorney who understands the serious public safety issues of driving while drowsy. If you or someone you care about has been injured in an auto accident, Mark A. Simon is here to fight for the compensation you deserve. Call us today at (303) 321-HURT (4878) today for a free consultation.