Studies into the impact of sleep apnea on those who suffer the condition revealed a substantial connection to motor vehicle accidents. An Australian study demonstrated that the victims of sleep apnea have car accident rates roughly three times that of the general population. Sleep apnea is far from the only cause of exhaustion among drivers, but it does serve to demonstrate the point that a tired driver is an unsafe driver. The study analyzed more than 2,600 hundred people who were believed to suffer from "sleep disordered breathing." This condition has come to be referred to as sleep apnea by many.
Sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing perhaps hundreds of times during a night of sleeping. It can lead people to suffer from daytime sleepiness, even after nights in which they slept the 7-8 hours generally recommended for adults. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 50 million to 70 million American adults suffer from some type of sleep and wakefulness disorder. The problem of tired drivers extends well beyond those who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Proving that a crash was the result of a tired driver is not always simple. There is not a test for drowsy driving, as there is for drinking and driving. Pulling phone and data records can allow investigators to determine if a driver was texting or was otherwise distracted when an accident occurred. There is no surefire method of demonstrating that a driver was zoning out or fighting exhaustion before a car accident.
The problem of drowsy driving may grow worse as the days shorten and the holiday season gets into swing. If you are driving, you should be aware of the importance of getting enough sleep before getting behind the wheel. The result of a tired drive could be a serious accident.
Source: The Car Connection, "Study: Drowsy Drivers Three Times More Likely To Have Auto Accidents," by Richard Read, 16 October 2013