New Jersey residents may be surprised to learn that more than two in five people admit to having fallen asleep while driving at some point in their lives, with half of those people admitting to doing so within the past year. No one would argue that falling asleep at the wheel is not a risky behavior, but many underestimate how dangerous it can be to drive while tired, even if the driver does not fall asleep.

The National Traffic Safety Administration says that 100,000 motor vehicle accidents involving tired drivers are reported by police each year. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety believes this number is a gross underestimate, and it is likely accurate: Police are not always aware if a crash involved a tired driver, and not all accidents are reported to the police. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety believes that the real number of accidents attributable to drowsy driving is 328,000 annually, with about one-third of these accidents resulting in injury and approximately 6,400 resulting in death.

When a driver is tired, that person is more than three times as likely to be in a motor vehicle accident. Driving tired means that the driver will have slower reaction times and lower awareness of his or her surroundings. One study reported that driving after being sleep deprived for at least 20 hours had the same impact on the driver as a BAC of .08, which is the legal limit for alcohol when driving.

Crash avoidance technologies on automobiles may contribute to an improvement in the number of crashes resulting from drowsy driving, but this technology is not a substitute for being fully attentive while driving. If someone is injured in an accident with a distracted or tired driver, that person may want to consult with a personal injury attorney about possible remedies.