Sleep Deprived Drivers May Be as Dangerous as Drunk Drivers

photo_71959_20160725-1-300x250There’s more bad news for the chronically sleep deprived. Not only are they perpetually tired but also more at risk for causing a car accident. According to a AAA study, drivers functioning on less than 4 hours of sleep have crash risks similar to those of an intoxicated driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .12. (Rhode Island law defines a BAC of .08 or higher as driving while intoxicated (DWI)). So, an exhausted truck driver who skimped on sleep in order to reach their destination on-time may be just as much of a danger as a drunk driver on the road! The Providence, RI car accident injury lawyers at Tapalian Law know it can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of an auto accident and this is especially true for car crashes caused by a sleep-deprived driver. We do know that truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to driving while tired due to long, and often monotonous, hours on the road. Recall the much publicized 2014 crash that severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another passenger in his vehicle. The truck driver who hit Morgan’s vehicle had been awake an estimated 28 hours before the collision took place and driver fatigue was cited as one cause of the deadly crash.

AAA Sleep Deprivation Study: Poor Sleep Alters Brain Function

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a review of data from 6,800 car accidents for the period of 2005-2007 to study the effects of sleep deprivation on driving. Only the data from drivers determined to be culpable (whose errors, actions, or lack of actions, led to the crash), were used.  Accidents involving external factors, like brake failure or poor infrastructure, were not factored into the report. The goal of the review was to “quantify” the correlation between hours of sleep and crash risk. The study found that

less than 7 hours of sleep increases a driver’s risk of a crash

. By far, the

greatest risk of crash occurs when a driver is operating on less than 4 hours of sleep

. Poor sleep affects brain function and impairs judgement. Fatigued drivers are not just “nodding off at the wheel”, but their decision-making process is also highly impacted by poor sleep quantity and quality. Vehicle operators with less than 4 hours of sleep are more likely to be involved in a single car crash. Fatalities are 3 times more likely with a single vehicle crash than a multi-vehicle crash.

Statistics on Drowsy Driving

The following statistics are based on car accident data related to sleep impairment provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

  • 824 deaths were related to fatigued driving related crashes in 2015.
  • 4,121 fatalities were attributed to drowsy driving accidents from 2011-2015.
  • 90,000 crashes involved drowsy drivers in 2015.

It can be problematic to find one conclusive cause for a car accident but as Providence car accident attorneys, Tapalian Law knows that driver fatigue is often a contributing factor to collisions.  Drowsy driving and lack of sleep can be caused by a sleep disorder, varying shifts at work, a new baby at home, or a late-night studying. We also know that daylight savings time can contribute to driver fatigue, as reported in a Tapalian Law Rhode Island Accident Lawyer Blog. Experts at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute say that any time change, such as Daylight Savings, can intensify drowsiness and our bodies need a few days to adjust.

Consult an Experienced Accident Injury Lawyer After Your RI Car Accident

Car accidents are unexpected, and often traumatic. Navigating the aftermath with insurance companies is daunting and is best done with the professional help of a highly experienced injury attorney like David Tapalian. Accident reconstruction experts, witness testimony, and police reports may be used in conjunction to determine the most plausible cause of an auto collision. Evidence from a car accident is not always identifiable or conclusive and multiple factors can be involved in the cause of a Rhode Island car crash. This is just one reason why it is important to contact an experienced car accident injury lawyer like David Tapalian after your RI car accident. As professionals well versed in the auto accident laws of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, we are ready to help you with your car accident case.  Attorney David Tapalian, a graduate of Brown University in Providence, RI and Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, will personally work with you on your case from start to finish. Call Tapalian Law today for a free consultation at


, or email us.

November 4-11, 2018 is recognized as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week by the National Sleep Foundation. Check out our Tapalian Law Rhode Island Accident Lawyer Blog to see further tips on preventing drowsy driving accidents.

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