Overly tired drivers pose a serious risk on West Virginia roads

Drivers often overlook the effects of drowsiness, which may contribute to causing auto accidents resulting in serious injuries or death.

Most motorists in West Virginia, and elsewhere, are aware of the dangers posed by drunk and distracted driving. However, many people overlook the potential risks of driving while sleep deprived, which can be just as hazardous. In fact, drowsy drivers caused approximately 72,000 auto accidents in 2013 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Like other motor vehicle collisions, those involving fatigued motorists commonly result in serious injuries and death for the drowsy drivers, as well as for pedestrians, passengers and other drivers.

Why is drowsy driving dangerous?

The potential dangers of falling asleep while driving are somewhat obvious. Motorists who are not awake may drift into other lanes of traffic, or off of the road entirely. The potential hazards of drowsy driving, however, are less apparent. Sleep deprivation can slow a driver's reaction time, impact his or her ability to make decisions, and make him or her less alert. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drivers who have been awake for 18 hours may suffer a similar level of cognitive impairment as those who have a blood alcohol content level of 0.05 percent.

What causes fatigued driving?

There are numerous factors that may contribute to sleep deprived driving. Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • The use of sedating medications or sleep aids
  • The time of day when a person is traveling
  • How long a person has been driving
  • Sleep loss
  • Untreated sleep disorders

The consumption of alcohol may also contribute to causing drowsy driving. According to the NHTSA, alcohol consumption increases a person's impairment. As such, a driver who is already fatigued may experience increased drowsiness after drinking alcoholic beverages. Due to these effects, these types of negligent drivers may be more likely to cause fatigue-related auto accidents.

Who is at risk of driving while drowsy?

Anyone who is overly tired or sleep deprived may be at risk for drowsy driving. For certain groups of people, however, the danger may be greater. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is more common for men to drive drowsy, and to fall asleep at the wheel, than it is for women. Young people, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 29-years-old, tend to also have an increased risk of driving while drowsy. Due to their long work hours, and sometimes irregular schedules, it is also common for shift workers to drive while fatigued.

Seeking legal guidance

When people in West Virginia are seriously injured in motor vehicle collisions, they frequently require medical treatment and care. Often, this leads to medical expenses and, in some cases, lost wages due to time off of work for recovery. In cases when sleep deprived drivers are responsible for causing such accidents, they may be held financially responsible. Working with an attorney may help those who have experienced situations such as this to understand if driver fatigue contributed to causing their collisions.