Those who are driving drowsy might as well be driving drunk

Numerous studies have determined that drowsy driving is the same as drunk driving. Thousands are injured or killed each year in drowsy driving accidents.

When the more pressing topics of drunk and distracted driving constantly take center stage, it can be easy to forget about some of the lesser-known - but still dangerous - forms of negligent driving, such as drowsy driving. However, drowsy driving is no less deadly just because it hasn't received much attention until lately.

According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of drivers said they had driven while sleepy during the past year. Out of these, over a third said they had fallen asleep while driving and 4 percent said they were in an accident or had a near miss because of driver fatigue. Many of these drivers admitted to driving drowsy on a regular basis. How serious is the problem? It is believed that 1,550 people are killed and 71,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents every year involving driver fatigue.

As bad as driving drunk?

Numerous studies have confirmed the risk. One such study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that those who get six to seven hours of sleep every night are two times as likely to be in a sleep-related accident as those who get more than eight hours of sleep. The risk increases up to five times more for those driving on less than five hours of sleep. Another study showed that driving after being awake for 18 hours was like having a blood alcohol content of .05 percent. The impairment increased to the equivalent of .10 percent after being awake 24 hours.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the types of drivers most likely to be involved in sleep-related accidents include the following:

• Shift workers who work late or overnight

• Those with untreated sleep disorders

• Drivers who take medications that cause drowsiness

• Those who regularly do not get enough sleep

• Commercial drivers, especially those who drive trucks on high-speed freeways

This final point was illustrated in a tragic accident that occurred in Berks County in November 2014. According to NBC Philadelphia, a truck driver drifted into oncoming traffic and struck nine vehicles. Two people were killed and several others were hospitalized. The trucker admitted to having been sleepy while driving. He received numerous criminal and traffic violations as a result of the crash.

If you or a loved one is injured as the result of a drowsy or otherwise negligent driver, you may have the right to pursue compensation. A Pennsylvania personal injury attorney with experience in car accident cases may be able to advise you.