Most of us are aware of the risk related to driving under the influence or distracted driving, but we seldom consider risks related to drowsy driving. All too often, we at the Parrish Law Firm hear of car accidents involving falling asleep behind the wheel or the inability to react in order to prevent an accident, due to fatigue. We want to bring light to this issue by first sharing statistics around drowsy driving, defining what drowsy driving means and finally, discussing what Virginia law states about driving while fatigued.
Drowsy Driving Statistics
- Drowsy driving results in approximately 100,000 accidents, 70,000 injuries and nearly 1,500 fatalities each year, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
- Drowsy driving accounts for ~9.5% of all car accidents (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
- Most drowsy driving incidents occur between 12 AM – 6 AM (NHTSA)
- You are about 300% more likely to be involved in a car accident if driving while fatigued (NSC)
- Nearly ¼ of drivers polled by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety admitted to driving while so fatigued that they struggled to keep their eyes from shutting for extended periods in the past 4 weeks.
- Driving without sleep for 20+ hours is similar to drunk driving. It is comparable to driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08%, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
Defining Drowsy Driving
Put simply, drowsy driving can be defined as operating a vehicle while feeling exhausted, fatigued or sleepy. Driving while drowsy can lower awareness, which can then result in slower reaction times or perhaps no reaction whatsoever. According to Jim Parrish, founder of the Parrish Law Firm, “As drivers, we make hundreds if not thousands of micro-decisions on the road every single day. If we are driving while fatigued, we are increasing our chances of an accident, sometimes fatal.”
According to a survey conducted by OnePoll in 2021, over 55% of the 2,000 Americans that were surveyed mentioned that they felt fatigued regardless of how much sleep they got, leaving them feeling unfocused. 56% of respondents mentioned feeling sleep deprived for many reasons including due to work from home, lack of a proper routine and from overstimulation due to a significant increase in screen time. Given that nearly 10% of all accidents occur due to drowsy driving, this phenomenon is increasingly becoming an issue Americans need to be well aware of and need to learn how to prevent.
What The Law Says
While there is no law in Virginia that specifically addresses drowsy driving, that certainly does not mean drowsy drivers involved in accidents can get away penalty-free. Drowsy driving can still very much fall under negligent driving laws such as reckless and improper driving. When one gets behind the wheel, they have a duty of care toward others. When one gets behind the wheel while knowing they are unable to effectively drive in an alert manner, they are violating their duty of care.
The state of Virginia is a contributory negligence state. A contributory negligence state means if you have contributed to an accident in any way, you are barred from recovering.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident due to drowsy driving, you will need an experienced personal injury attorney that can investigate your claim, share your options with you and fight for damages on your behalf.
Call the Parrish Law Firm today for a FREE legal consultation at (571) 229 -1800 or contact us here.