This past weekend, the entertainment industry was rocked by the news that comedian and television star Tracy Morgan suffered serious personal injuries when the limo bus in which he was riding was struck by a semi.
What made this news altogether more shocking was that later allegation by law enforcement officials that the driver who caused the truck accident had not slept for over 24 hours. He has since been charged with vehicular homicide and assault by auto for his role in the crash, which in addition to injuring Morgan also took the life of a fellow comedian.
Aside from sparking a dialogue about the adequacy of the hours-of-service requirements for commercial truckers, the truck accident has also served to reignite the discussion about the perils of drowsy driving, a phenomenon that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration blames for roughly 1,550 fatalities per year over the course of the last decade.
If you thought this statistic was alarming, consider some of the other findings of the NHTSA concerning drowsy driving:
- There are roughly 100,000 police-reported crashes relating to driver fatigue in the U.S. every year.
- These roughly 100,000 drowsy-driving crashes cause an estimated 71,000 personal injuries per year and cost an estimated $12.5 billion per year.
"Drowsy driving is a threat to personal health and public safety -- it's just as dangerous as drunk driving," said the president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "Similar to the effects of alcohol, drowsiness impacts alertness and response time, making it difficult to drive safely."
While many people seek to combat drowsy driving through such simple steps as rolling down their windows for fresh air or cranking up the volume of their music, experts say this will have little to no effect. Indeed, they even indicate that coffee or caffeinated beverages will only serve to provide short-term relief to drowsy drivers and that the best -- and only -- solution is to pull off the road and get some rest in a safe place.
It's important to remember that if you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a drowsy driver or a negligent driver that you have rights and you do have options for seeking justice.
Source: The Huffington Post, "The grim stats associated with drowsy driving," Sam Stein, June 9, 2014; Sleep Review, "Driver in Tracy Morgan crash awake preceding 24 hours, associations release statements," June 10, 2014