A recent report by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that on many highways across the United States, including those in North Carolina, an increasing number of car accidents have been cause by sleepy drivers. The NHTSA data was compiled from reports submitted by local police departments, but drivers impaired by drowsiness or sleepiness are difficult for police to detect after an accident.
Drowsiness or fatigue does not leave physical evidence, unlike impairment by alcohol or other drugs. Thus, if the accused driver denies falling asleep or being tired, not much can be done by concerned authorities. It also is difficult for police to ascertain fault for an accident if a driver fails to remember whether he or she fell asleep while driving or if a driver is unable to respond or dead.
Research conducted to check the role of drowsy driving in fatal road accidents revealed that data submitted by police were very small. Experts have even described the official statistics as the tip of the iceberg, considering that in most cases it is almost impossible to figure out whether or not a driver was asleep behind the wheel or was too fatigued to drive. The NHTSA National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey found that not all accidents are investigated by authorities, thereby increasing the likelihood that the actual statistical findings are not complete.
However, considering all these points, it may be noted that drowsy driving is no less dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol, especially when it concerns the safety of other people on road. If a person has been injured or has died in an accident involving a drowsy driver, family members may want to consider his or her legal options. A personal injury claim could help victims recover compensation for the injuries, damages and losses caused by the incident.
Source: AAA Foundation, "Prevalence of Motor Vehicle Crashes Involving Drowsy Drivers, United States, 2009 - 2013," Brian C. Tefft, Nov. 2014