Sleep apnea is a medical condition where abnormal breathing occurs at night when a person should be sleeping. Breathing starts and stops, making it impossible to get a good night’s sleep. The person may think they have been asleep the whole night and not realize that their breathing was interrupted. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), having sleep apnea raises a driver’s risk of being involved in a car accident by roughly two and a half times. The AASM reports that at least 25 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea reduces both quality and quantity of sleep. A person with sleep apnea may get less than five hours of sleep and try to treat themselves with sleeping pills. The result of chronic sleep apnea is excessive daytime drowsiness, irritability, headaches, and difficulty focusing. Drowsiness while driving is a huge risk, as it decreases reaction time and impairs judgement. Studies done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety compare the effects of drowsy driving to drunk driving while pointing out that drowsy driving is severely underreported as a cause of accidents. An estimated 328,000 motor vehicle accidents and 6,400 fatal crashes related to drowsy driving occur each year on U.S. roads.
A study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders found that even when people who suffer from sleep apnea do not feel tired, they may still be at considerable risk for an accident. The good news is that sleep apnea is treatable. CPAP therapy for at least four hours per night can reduce accident risk.
Falling asleep at the wheel can cause serious accidents that inflict severe injuries. A driver that falls asleep may drift into oncoming traffic, causing a head-on collision. Drifting into the adjacent lane at high speeds could cause a sideswipe accident and potentially also force other drivers off the road where they could hit something and roll over. Any of these scenarios could leave accident survivors with significant injuries, such as:
If you have been injured in a sleep apnea-related accident, you should talk to a knowledgeable attorney right away.
If you have been injured by a negligent drowsy driver, contact one of our Wilmington car accident lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Call us at 302-656-5445 or contact us online today to schedule a consultation. We have offices in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, and we proudly serve clients in Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.