Photos show car wedged under guardrail after driver falls asleep, Washington cops say

BOTHELL, Wash. — A Washington State Patrol trooper shared photos of the wreckage that resulted from a driver reportedly falling asleep at the wheel Tuesday.

Trooper Rick Johnson tweeted photos of the car wedged under the guardrail along Washington 522 “to [Interstate] 405” south near Bothell at about 7:50 a.m.

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The “driver said he fell asleep at the wheel” and crashed about an hour earlier, Trooper Chase Van Cleave told McClatchy News in a phone interview.

The driver was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, Johnson tweeted, and was not impaired.

It’s unclear whether the driver was cited in the accident, but that is the “general practice” when a driver falls asleep, Van Cleave said. Washington does not have any laws prohibiting “drowsy driving” specifically, according to the state’s Revised Code.

Experts say driving while tired is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol and for that reason at least two states - Arkansas and New Jersey - have specific laws to punish drowsy drivers, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

“After approximately 18 hours of being awake, the effects on reaction time, vigilance, multi-tasking, and hand-eye coordination are comparable to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%,” according to the Sleep Foundation. “After 20 hours of being awake, drowsy drivers are impaired on a level equatable to a 0.08% blood alcohol content, which is the current legal limit in most states. After 24 hours awake, impairment is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.1%.”

The National Highway Traffic Administration estimated that 91,000 crashes involved drowsy drivers in 2017, leading to 50,000 injuries and nearly 800 deaths.

Precise numbers on fatalities and crashes are difficult to determine because “crash investigators can look for clues that drowsiness contributed to a crash, but [they] are not always identifiable or conclusive,” the administration said.

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A spokesperson for AAA Washington did not immediately return a request for information from McClatchy News about the state’s drowsy driving statistics.