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Nathaniel Fick
Nathaniel Fick
Attorney • (410) 321-6000

Sleep Deprivation Common Cause of Auto Accidents

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Just like excessive speed, impairment related to alcohol and drugs, aggressive driving habits, and inclement weather conditions, sleepiness is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents.

The role of drowsy driving in car crashes is not completely understood for various reasons, including:

  • Not all states’ accident reports include “sleepiness” as a factor in an accident
  • There is no test (like blood alcohol content) that can measure a driver’s sleepiness at the time of a crash
  • Not all investigators are trained to look for sleepiness as a factor in an accident
  • Even though a driver is sleepy at the wheel, he may deny falling asleep or be unaware that he has been falling asleep

Sleepiness is generally caused by a variety of things, including:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Untreated sleep disorders
  • Jet lag
  • Working odd hours, or shiftwork
  • Medication
  • Alcohol

Drivers who are sleep deprived are the cause of just as many car accidents as people who are caught drunk driving. Most drivers who are sleep deprived have not slept soundly and may have untreated obstructive sleep apnea, a condition characterized by episodes where breathing is stopped due to a partial or complete obstruction of a person’s airway while they sleep. Besides snoring, other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), sleep deprived young men under the age of 26 cause most fall-asleep automobile crashes, but the number of sleep-related crashes due to untreated sleep disorders is unknown. It is estimated that 80 percent of those who have sleep apnea are undiagnosed and untreated, which also increases their risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.