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Auto Accidents

Drowsy Driving Is Impaired Driving

October 21, 2013 | Michael Barasch

Whether your vehicle of choice is a car or truck, when your head starts to bob, you are dangerously impaired. And while you know what being tired feels like, knowing the factors that contribute to drowsy driving may save your life.

This summer, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised hours of service (HOS) rules for truck drivers. By reducing the driving week from 82 to 70 hours, FMCSA hopes to improve the health of truck drivers and reduce fatigue-associated accidents. A dangerous and surprisingly common factor in daytime drowsiness is sleep apnea. The types include:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: When tissue in the soft palate at the back of your throat relaxes into your airway during sleep, it obstructs your breathing for periods of time. Deprived of oxygen, your body chemistry changes, you awaken, breathe and return to sleep. This occurs repeatedly.
  • Central sleep apnea: As a sleeping and breathing disorder, central sleep apnea occurs when portions of the brain responsible for respiration do not receive or transmit appropriate neurological feedback. You may cease breathing for up to half a minute, stir, then breathe rapidly for a period of time.

Both forms of sleep apnea prohibit deep, restorative sleep. FMCSA reports that sleep apnea afflicts approximately one-third of commercial truck operators. Apnea is not limited to drivers of big rigs, however. Factors that contribute to sleep apnea include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Having a family history of sleep apnea
  • Using tobacco or alcohol

Drivers are more likely to have fatigue-related accidents during late evening and early morning hours, when people normally sleep. Midafternoon is another key period for drowsy driving accidents.

Driving distracted, driving drowsy, driving drunk — all are forms of driving impaired and can result in similar consequences. If you are injured by an impaired driver in New York, speak with experienced legal counsel.

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