A motorist who has not slept for 24 hours is as impaired as one who has consumed five alcoholic drinks, yet an Automobile Association of America study suggests that about a third of them have chosen to get behind the wheel while dangerously tired at least once during the last 30 days. The dangers of drowsy driving are well known, but a growing body of research reveals that a worrying number of drivers in Minnesota and around the country are aware of the risks and take their chances anyway.

Advocacy groups say that the problem of drowsy driving is far more widespread than government crash statistics indicate. This is because accident investigators do not have a reliable way to identify fatigue and crash report paperwork rarely collects drowsiness data. A study of dashboard video footage recorded in the moments before an accident led AAA researchers to conclude that drowsiness plays a role in close to 10% of all car accidents.

Adequate rest is the only known way to avoid fatigue, but even getting a full seven hours of sleep may not be enough to stave off drowsiness if drivers suffer from medical conditions like obstructive sleep apnea or take over-the-counter or prescription medications that have narcotic side effects. Another problem is that most of the things drivers do to stay awake, such as drinking coffee, turning up the radio or opening a window, either do not work at all or only work for a short time.

When fatigue is suspected but car crash reports provide little information, experienced personal injury attorneys may look for evidence of narcotic medications by using subpoenas to obtain medical records. Attorneys could also argue that fatigue more than likely played a role when their clients were injured in accidents that took place during the early morning hours and the drivers involved took no evasive action before crashing.