Many people may be unaware that drowsy driving is illegal

This article looks at recent studies showing how dangerous and underappreciated drowsy driving is.

A recent study has found that many college students may greatly underestimate the danger of drowsy driving to the point that many are unaware that the dangerous activity is even illegal. As Reuters reports, the University of Maryland in College Park researchers conducted a series of focus groups with undergraduate students and found that most of them admitted to having driven while sleepy, despite also describing themselves as safe drivers. Drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents in the United States and recent studies suggest that driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving while drunk.

Is drowsy driving illegal?

The study asked 26 undergraduate students over a series of four focus groups about their attitudes towards various dangerous driving behaviors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the participants described themselves as safe drivers, but when asked if they had ever engaged in risky driving behaviors, the results were less than encouraging. Most of the participants said they had been involved in incidents, such as crashes or near-misses, that were caused by drowsy driving.

Even more worryingly, most of the participants, while acknowledging that they knew drowsy driving was dangerous, didn't know that it was illegal (which it is). Furthermore, most said that they found it hard to believe that they could ever be held legally accountable for driving while sleepy.

Just as dangerous as drunk driving

The results of the study are concerning because not only is drowsy driving risky, it is one of the leading causes of deadly accidents in the United States. About 300,000 accidents are linked to drowsy driving each year, resulting in about 6,400 fatalities. Safety experts often refer to drowsy driving as one of "the three D's" because it is one of the three leading causes of accidents, along with drunk driving and distracted driving.

Drowsy driving is dangerous not only because a tired driver is more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel, but because such drivers, even if they do stay awake, are more likely to make mistakes while driving. As NPR reports, a recent AAA study found that drivers need at least seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. If drivers lose just one hour of sleep, their risk of a crash doubles, while if they lose two to three hours of sleep then their crash risk increases to as high as a drunk driver's crash risk.

Getting help after an accident

For those who have been involved in an accident, it is important to reach out for assistance as soon as possible. Accidents can lead to large expenses, such as medical bills and vehicle repair costs, but compensation can help cover some or all of them. A personal injury attorney can show crash victims what forms of compensation they may be able to claim and how to go about pursuing those claims most effectively.