Drowsy driving may be behind many unexplained accidents

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There are over 400,000 traffic accidents in North Carolina each year, according to the state Department of Transportation, and more than one-third of those crashes result in at least one injury or death. Although many car accidents are caused by the same handful of factors, such as speeding or drunk driving, in nearly 40 percent of North Carolina traffic collisions there is no clear cause.

One factor that may play a role in some of these unexplained traffic accidents is drowsy driving, which is harder to detect than many other risky driving behaviors. According to estimates from the National Sleep Foundation, driver fatigue contributes to approximately 100,000 traffic accidents each year.

National crash data supports those findings, with more than 70,000 injuries and 1,500 fatalities per year attributed to drowsy driving. However, because there is rarely a reliable way to ascertain whether a driver was drowsy at the time of a crash, the actual impact of fatigued driving may be far higher still.

Sleepiness is comparable to alcohol impairment

Research has shown that sleep-deprived drivers experience impairment levels comparable to those caused by alcohol consumption. According to data cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drivers who have been awake for 18 hours experience cognitive impairments similar to those with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent. At 24 hours without sleep, the level of impairment increases to the equivalent of a BAC level of 0.10 percent - well past the legal limit for drunk driving.

Unfortunately, though drowsy driving is clearly dangerous, research suggests that it is widespread among American drivers, many of whom are habitually under-rested. Although the National Institutes of Health recommends that adults sleep for at least seven to eight hours per night, most fall short of that mark and 30 percent report that they get less than six hours of sleep on an average night. Meanwhile, more than one-third of drivers surveyed by the National Sleep Foundation said they had fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year, and 60 percent said they had driven while feeling sleepy.

Other common crash factors

Unlike drowsy driving, some risk factors are relatively easy to identify when they contribute to a crash. According to data released by the NCDOT, the top five known causes of traffic accidents in North Carolina include:

  • Speeding (13 percent)
  • Distracted driving (11 percent)
  • Failure to yield the right of way (8 percent)
  • Driving too fast for weather, traffic or road conditions (3 percent)
  • Drunk driving (2 percent)

In any crash caused by these or other negligent driving behaviors, the driver responsible for causing the accident can be financially liable for any resulting injuries or deaths.

Protect your legal rights after a crash

If you have been involved in a crash or have lost a loved one due to a traffic accident in North Carolina, be sure to talk your situation over with a lawyer to learn about the options that are available to you. Depending on the circumstances, you could be able to recover monetary compensation for your lost wages, medical expenses and other damages. Contact Maynard & Harris Attorneys at Law, PLLC Law, for more information about your legal rights after a crash.