When most people think of car crashes, their minds jump to thoughts of
the big killers, like texting and driving or driving under the influence
of drugs or alcohol. However, driving while fatigued is just as dangerous
as any of the more notable bad driving habits, and can be equally deadly.
In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says there
are an average of 56,000 motor vehicle crashes each year caused by driver
drowsiness, and roughly 1,550 end in fatalities.
A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found a staggering 37 percent of
people admitted to falling asleep while driving. While certain people
are more predisposed to sleepy driving, like truck drivers and shift workers,
anyone who sleeps less than 8 hours each night is at risk. Fatigued driving
isn’t just a matter of powering through on sheer will, studies have
shown sleep deprivation can cause serious impairment.
Australian researchers conducted a study to compare the dangers of sleepy
driving with the effects of intoxicated driving. They found that drivers
who have been awake for 18 hours showed an impairment equal to a driver
with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours without
sleep. The national legal limit in the U.S. is a BAC of .08.
The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to ensure you get your proper
8 hours of rest every night, especially if you know you have a long drive
ahead of you the following day. If you are feeling drowsy, your body will
exhibit warning signs, such as yawning, or more frequent, or slow, blinking.
Besides these signs, it’s usually quite apparent when you feel sleepy,
and if you do, make sure you don’t drive.
If you need to drive and are feeling sleepy, there are a few things you
can do to help the situation. First, you can ask another person to drive
while you catch some much-needed shut eye. Or, you could pull over and
take a nap, if you are in a safe area and are able to pull to the side
of the road legally. It may also be a good idea to find a rest stop or
gas station, get out of your car and walk around a bit to refresh your senses.
You might also try dipping into a convenience store for something with
lasting energy like juice or something high in protein. Coffee could also
help, but only on the short-term. For longer drives, the coffee could
make you “crash” after an hour or so, leaving you more exhausted
Also, try to change the atmosphere in your vehicle to help wake you up.
For example, find high-energy music, and turn the volume up. Turn off
cruise control, and make your body sit in an upright position to make
sure you’re fully engaged in the task at hand. You could also try
putting your air conditioning on the coldest setting, waking up your senses
a little bit more.
In short, if you are feeling sleepy, do whatever you can to wake yourself
before getting on the road. Drowsy driving may not seem as serious, but
it is very dangerous and can be fatal. Stay smart and get off the road
if you don’t feel any of the above techniques working, and avoid
putting yourself in the dangerous position of driving while fatigued.
If you were injured in an accident involving a suspected drowsy driver,
or someone who fell asleep at the wheel, our attorneys can help. To learn
about your legal options,
contact Todd Miner Law and schedule your free consultation.