Understanding the dangers of drowsy driving in Massachusetts

Often overlooked as a risky driving behavior, drowsiness may cause impairments that affect people’s ability to safely operate their motor vehicles.

Although many in Massachusetts recognize the dangers of risky behaviors such as speeding or driving under the influence, many overlook the hazards of others like driving while drowsy. In fact, researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimate that drowsiness may contribute to an average of 328,000 motor vehicle collisions each year. Such accidents may cause serious injuries or death for the sleepy motorists, as well as for the occupants of any other vehicles involved. Having an understanding of drowsy driving may help people protect themselves, their passengers and others.

What causes drowsy driving?

There are several factors that may lead to people being overly tired or fatigued while behind the wheel. Not getting between seven and nine hours of sleep at night is a common contributor to many drowsy drivers. Drinking alcohol and taking certain medications may cause people to become sleepy or enhance the effects of fatigue and drowsiness.

Who is at risk for drowsy driving?

In general, those who do not get adequate rest may be more likely to drive while drowsy. There are certain population groups, however, for whom the risk may be higher. This includes young people, particularly men, between 16-years-old and 29-years-old. Motorists who are suffering from undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders may also be more likely to get behind the wheel while overly tired than other drivers. Working overnight or long or irregular hours may contribute to shift workers having a heightened risk for driving while drowsy.

How does drowsiness affect drivers?

When it comes to driving while they are tired, many people believe their only risk is falling asleep. However, drowsiness may have effects on their driving performance that may impair their ability to safely handle their vehicles. Some of the most common effects of fatigue or sleepiness on motorists include the following:

  • Impaired decision making
  • Delayed reactions
  • Reduced attentiveness

These and other impairments resulting from drowsiness may affect people's ability to react quickly to avoid hazards, changes in traffic conditions and other emergency situations that may arise on the road. Consequently, they may be unable to avoid colliding with other vehicles, which may lead to serious injuries or death.

Working with a lawyer

As a result of accidents involving drowsy drivers, people in Massachusetts may suffer injuries that require significant medical treatment. This may lead to expenses they were not prepared for, as well as lost income while they are off work recovering. In some situations, however, negligent motorists may be held liable for these and other resulting losses. Therefore, those who have experienced such situations may find it helpful to discuss their options for pursuing financial compensation with an attorney. A lawyer may explain their rights and help them determine how best to proceed.