Most North Carolina motorists understand that driving under the influence is dangerous and illegal. However, many people don't realize that driving while sleepy is just as hazardous. Worse, almost everyone does it at some point in their lives.
A study by researchers at the National Sleep Foundation found that being awake for 24 straight hours impairs drivers as much as having a blood alcohol content level of .10, which is above the legal limit of .08. Despite this, a 2018 AAA poll found that nearly one-third of all drivers admitted to driving while drowsy in the last 30 days. Statistics show that this behavior is leading to more accidents. For example, a separate AAA study found that almost 10% of accidents are caused by drivers falling asleep behind the wheel.
According to traffic safety experts, drivers need to get at least seven hours of sleep each night to ensure they are rested enough to operate a vehicle. However, drivers shouldn't necessarily depend on prescription sleep aids to fall asleep. A 2018 survey by Consumer Reports found that 20% of people who use sleep aids drive within seven hours of taking the drug, increasing their risk of grogginess behind the wheel. In order to reduce the risk of drowsy driving, experts recommend that drivers take a companion when going on long road trips and learn to recognize the signs of drowsy driving, including excessive blinking and yawning, loss of concentration and erratic driving. Drivers who experience any of these signs should pull over as soon as possible and get some sleep.
Drowsy drivers who injure people in car accidents can be held liable in civil court. With the help of a personal injury attorney, an injured victim could sue the at-fault driver for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, property loss and other crash-related damages.