Tired man falls asleep while driving

Everyone experiences drowsiness from time to time, but excessive fatigue can be deadly behind the wheel of a car, truck or motorcycle. Hundreds of people are killed, and thousands more are injured every year in drowsy driving accidents. Research suggests the actual rate of drowsy driving wrecks is likely underreported since fatigue can be challenging to detect and prove.

If you were involved in a car accident in Denver caused by a suspected drowsy driver, you may be suffering from painful injuries, missing time at work and with family, and wondering what to do next. At Olson Personal Injury Lawyers™, our dedicated trial attorneys work tirelessly to safeguard the rights of injured clients in Denver and throughout surrounding areas of Colorado.

Contact us today to learn more about how we’ll go the extra mile for you in a free initial consultation.

What Is Drowsy Driving?

Drowsy driving occurs when motorists operate cars, trucks, or motorcycles without getting enough rest. Driving while drowsy is hazardous even if drivers do not actually nod off at the wheel. It can dull recognition and responses, sometimes as much as alcohol or drugs do. Drowsiness can be especially dangerous because drowsy drivers are often too sleepy to accurately gauge how fatigue has impacted their driving abilities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), sleep deprivation can be just as dangerous as alcohol intoxication. Staying awake for more than 24 hours has the same cognitive effects as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit. Additionally, fatigue increases the impact of even relatively small amounts of alcohol.

Common Causes of Drowsy Driving

Drivers can become dangerously fatigued due to a variety of reasons, but some common causes of drowsy driving accidents include:

  • Driving for too long – Drivers who are behind the wheel for hours at a time can easily become worn out by the monotony of the road.
  • Driving late at night – Driving in the dark or overnight when a person is used to sleeping can make it difficult to stay safely alert and focused.
  • Sleep deprivation – Chronic or acute lack of sleep from poor sleep habits or interrupted sleep can lead to severe drowsiness, even in broad daylight.
  • Time zone changes – Traveling through different time zones can throw off a driver’s internal clock, increasing the likelihood of hazardous levels of fatigue.
  • Health conditions – Certain medical disorders such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy can make it difficult to sleep soundly or stay awake during the day.
  • Alcohol or sedatives – Alcohol and certain sedative medications can impair restful sleep and may even affect drivers the day after consumption.

Signs and Symptoms of Drowsy Driving

If you experience any of the following signs and symptoms or notice them in other drivers, it’s a good idea to pull over to a safe location and rest before continuing:

  • Frequent yawning or blinking
  • Blurred vision and difficulty focusing
  • Feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • Nodding off and difficulty keeping the head erect
  • Trouble remembering events that just occurred on the road
  • Missing road signs, turns, stops, or exits
  • Drifting into neighboring lanes of traffic
  • Coming too close behind other vehicles in front
  • Driving over rumble strips on the side of the road

When Do Most Drowsy Driving Accidents Occur?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most drowsy driving accidents occur either between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. or during late afternoon hours. Experts suggest this is because the body’s circadian rhythms – the internal systems that regulate our sleep-wake cycles – naturally cause us to feel sleepiest during these times of the day.

However, it’s important to remember that drowsy driving accidents can happen at any time, especially when drivers are dangerously sleep-deprived or impaired by sedating substances.

Drowsy Driving Laws in Colorado

Like most states, Colorado has no laws on the books that pertain specifically to drowsy driving. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), only New Jersey and Arkansas currently have drowsy driving laws in effect.

Colorado does have a “careless driving” law that makes it unlawful to operate a vehicle in a “careless or imprudent manner,” which can sometimes apply to driving while dangerously fatigued. However, it can be difficult for law enforcement officers, insurance adjusters, or other investigators to prove that a driver’s carelessness stemmed from fatigue.

Drowsy Driving Statistics in Denver

One report based on NHTSA data found that Colorado ranked third in the U.S. for having the highest percentage of driving fatalities that were sleep-related. The state also had the fifth-greatest increase in the rate of drowsy driving fatalities.

Other alarming drowsy driving statistics include:

  • In a single recent year, 697 fatalities resulted from accidents involving drowsy drivers
  • Drowsy driving fatalities made up 1.9 percent of all accident fatalities that year.
  • 1,240 drivers (2.4 percent) involved in fatal crashes were reported as being drowsy.

How to Prevent Drowsy Driving in Denver

You can do your part to avoid drowsiness on the road and prevent drowsy driving accidents by:

  • Practicing good habits by developing and adhering to a regular sleep schedule
  • Getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night
  • Seeking professional evaluation and treatment for possible sleep disorders
  • Avoiding alcohol, drugs, and medications that could make you drowsy
  • Regularly eating healthy foods to give yourself stable, long-term energy
  • Avoiding late-night, overnight, or solo driving, especially when taking long trips
  • Pulling over and resting or switching with another driver when you feel tired
  • Avoiding quick fixes such as stimulants that can mask fatigue

Contact Our Experienced Denver Drowsy Driving Accident Lawyers Today

The drowsy driving accident lawyers of Olson Personal Injury Lawyers™ have the resources and experience needed to help you hold drowsy drivers accountable for their negligence. To discuss the details of your Denver drowsy driving accident case with an attentive lawyer, contact us today to get started with your free initial case review.