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 25 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 than before.
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.