Poor sleep quality due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to an increase in drowsy driving car accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving caused roughly 91,000 crashes and 795 traffic fatalities in 2017. Drowsy driving doesn't always involve falling asleep at the wheel, but can also be likened to driving while impaired by alcohol. For example, drowsy drivers may experience some delays in reaction time, impaired judgment and loss of memory.
Those who are the most at risk of drowsy driving include night shift workers, truck drivers, business travelers, parents of young children, and people with undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders. Anyone can be at risk of drowsy driving due to insufficient sleep or poor sleep quality. For that reason, there may be a link between poor sleep quality and the COVID-19 pandemic. That's despite many people being out of work and school or working from home.
What stress factors can lead to poor sleep quality?
Several studies have been conducted on the impact stress has on sleep patterns, according to SleepFoundation.org. Stress and issues involving mental health can be directly related to disruptions in sleep and insomnia.
There are many stressors that could be keeping people awake at night during the COVID-19 pandemic. These could include:
- Finances: Many people have been laid off or permanently lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
- Social stressors: Many events have been canceled due to the lockdowns. In addition, people have refrained from seeing friends and loved ones while practicing social distancing guidelines.
- Fear and panic: Nobody knows for sure how long the pandemic will last or whether it will get better or worse. There is a lot of uncertainty that can leave some people in a state of panic.
Is there a link between changed sleeping patterns and drowsiness?
A study was conducted in Austria, Germany and Switzerland from mid-March to late April, which was the height of the lockdowns. The research was led by Christine Blume, a sleep researcher and cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Basel's Centre for Chronobiology in Switzerland, and published in Cell Press.
The study found that most people were receiving about 15 minutes of extra sleep per night during the pandemic. This was because they didn't have to get up for work or school. In addition, researchers observed a lack of social jetlag. This is a change in sleep patterns that often occurs on weekends.
Despite the increase in sleep reported in the study, subjects in the study were receiving poor quality of sleep.
“Usually, we would expect a decrease in social jetlag to be associated with reports of improved sleep quality," said Blume. "However, in our sample, overall sleep quality decreased. We think that the self-perceived burden, which substantially increased during this unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown, may have outweighed the otherwise beneficial effects of a reduced social jetlag."
What should I do if I was injured by a drowsy driver?
For many people in Kansas, life is returning to somewhat normal, as some businesses begin to reopen. Those who haven't returned to work or school may still drive in order to get groceries and attend doctor's appointments. As things return to somewhat normal, there are many drivers who may be rusty behind the wheel due to months of traveling less frequently. As a result, we could see an increase in crashes linked to drowsy driving and other factors.
If you or a loved one was injured in a crash, an experienced Wichita car accident attorney at Warner Law Offices can help you recover damages for medical costs, lost wages, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. Our team knows what to look for when investigating crashes caused by drowsy driving and other forms of negligence. We also know how to negotiate with insurance companies for a fair settlement. We will take them to trial if an agreement can't be reached.
To get started on your car accident claim, contact our firm online and schedule your free case evaluation.