It is not illegal in Louisiana or any other state in the nation to drive while tired, yet the statistics say that maybe it should be. In a go-go-go society that places more emphasis on work, longer commutes and advancement, many people of driving age do not get adequate sleep. These misplaced values make it difficult for states to combat the problem of drowsy driving which, according to the CDC, is a dangerous one.
According to the CDC, drowsy driving is exactly what it sounds like it is: The combination of driving and fatigue or sleepiness. Though drowsy driving is often the result of too little sleep, it can also stem from untreated sleep disorders, alcohol consumption, medications and shift work. Though sleepiness in and of itself is not dangerous, it does cause a number of adverse side effects. Fatigue reduces one’s ability to make good decisions, slows reaction times and makes it difficult for one to remain focused to the task at hand for an extended period of time.
To put the problem into perspective, the CDC provided a few numbers. Results from a survey of 150,000 adults in 19 states and the District of Columbia reveal that one in 25 drivers fall asleep at the wheel every 30 days. That is 4% of the adult driving population. Individuals who slept six hours or less per day or who snore are more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.
According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is difficult to calculate the exact number of accidents, injuries and fatalities that drowsy driving causes. Though crash investigators look for clues of drowsy driving, such clues are not always identifiable or conclusive.
That said, the NHTSA does estimate that 91,000 of all reported crashes that occurred in 2017 were the result of tired driving. These accidents resulted in an estimated 50,000 injuries and 800 fatalities.
Though sleepiness can attack at any time of day or night, the NHTSA has identified three factors that are most common in drowsy driving crashes. The majority of such accidents involve a single driver with no passengers in the vehicle. In these crashes, there is no evidence that the driver tried to brake as he or she drove off the road.
Accidents in which law enforcement suspect sleepiness is the cause often occur between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., or late in the afternoon. At both these times of day, a person experiences a dip in his or her natural circadian rhythm. The final common factor in drowsy driving accidents is the fact that they frequently occur on highways and rural roads.