Drowsy driving is common among many people in America. Driving after getting inadequate sleep may be as dangerous as drunk driving.

Many people in Pennsylvania, as well as across the country, are sleep-deprived on a regular basis. When people who have not have sufficient sleep get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, the repercussions can be disastrous. In fact, numerous studies have recently shown drowsy driving to be one of the most prevalent safety issues facing motorists today.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, about 5,000 people were killed in 2015 and many more were injured in crashes resulting from drowsy driving. Not getting enough sleep seems to be one of the worst driving hazards, in the same category as distracted driving and driving while intoxicated.

A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed a large portion of drivers admitted to having driven while drowsy on a regular basis, and some said they had fallen asleep or nodded off behind the wheel. Additional studies by Australian researchers showed that driving while sleep-deprived can be as dangerous as driving drunk. According to the National Sleep Foundation, test subjects who had stayed awake for 18 hours drove with equal impairment levels as those with a .05 percent blood alcohol content level. After 24 hours of being awake, the impairment equivalent rose to a disturbing .10 percent.

Fatal truck crash highlights drowsy driving dangers

A horrific accident that occurred in 2014 stands out as one of the worst drowsy driving crashes in Pennsylvania history. NBC Philadelphia reported that a sleepy truck driver in Berks County crossed into oncoming traffic and mowed down nine vehicles, crushing some against a restaurant sign. Two people were killed in the accident and nine others were injured. The driver pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment and has been sentenced to 2 ½ to five years in prison.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, certain groups of people are more likely to get into drowsy driving accidents. These include drivers of commercial vehicles, those who work night shifts and people with untreated or undiagnosed sleep disorders. High school and college students, people who take medications that cause drowsiness and those who regularly get less than seven hours of sleep each night may also be at an increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

Drivers may reduce the risk of causing a sleep-related crash on trips by taking the following precautions:

  • Getting enough sleep the night before a trip
  • Pulling over and taking a nap when drowsy
  • Bringing a friend who can switch driving places
  • Stopping for a break every couple of hours

When someone has been injured in a crash caused by another driver's negligence, there is the possibility of compensation. It may help to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in Wyomissing.