A study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that sleep deprivation or interruption is a potentially serious risk factor for car accident injuries. The groups most likely to suffer from causes of inadequate sleep, including diurnal-cycle interruption or behavioral and lifestyle choices, are people 16 to 29 years of age, nocturnal shift workers and elderly people. Men have a significantly greater likelihood of having a drowsy driving accident than females of equivalent age.
Lifestyle and behavioral choices such as not getting adequate sleep on a regular basis, consumption of alcohol or certain medications when tired and driving routinely between midnight and 6 a.m. are all considered risk factors for a car accident. Additionally, people with known or undiagnosed disorders that interrupt sleep are at increased risk of such accidents. Driving long distances during the late hours is another risk factor.
Getting adequate sleep before driving or being willing to stop for a brief nap if the driver feels fatigued is the most effective countermeasure against drowsy driving. Ingesting caffeine, sitting in a deliberately uncomfortable position or keeping the environment slightly out of sync with the driver's personal comfort preference may help increase alertness and combat drowsiness temporarily as well.
To determine liability in a car crash where drowsy driving is suspected, an attorney might question whether the driver has any known or undiagnosed risk factors for sleep-related driving impairment. Once liability is established, the attorney may consider the amount of damage and physical harm done to others as a baseline to determine fair compensation. A settlement offer may be extended, or the attorney might take the case to trial.