Wake Up! The Hidden Dangers of Drowsy Driving And Strategies To Prevent Crashes From Dozing Off
After approximately 24 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 0.10%, according to a study by the Sleep Foundation.
That makes driving a motor vehicle while drowsy equivalent to driving well above the legal limit of alcohol.
Drowsy driving is a pervasive issue, contributing significantly to road accidents nationwide. Chain | Cohn | Clark below highlights the risks of driving while drowsy, the contributing factors, and also strategies to prevent drowsy driving.
“Drowsy driving is a significant public safety hazard, and awareness is the first step towards prevention,” said Matt Clark, managing partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Clark. “When we understand the dangers of driving while fatigued and take active steps to avoid it, we’re not just protecting ourselves, we’re safeguarding everyone on the road.”
At least 50% of American adults admit to having driven while drowsy, according to the Sleep Founation study, and 20% of people have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. In fact, drowsy driving annually is responsible for at least 100,000 car crashes, 50,000 injuries, and 800 deaths, according to reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from the latest stastics available.
And these numbers may be underestimated, as it’s challenging to pinpoint sleepiness as a crash factor.
Even mild and short-term sleep deprivation can cause dangerous impairments to driving ability. Sleeping between six and seven hours a night doubled the risk of being involved in a crash, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, while getting less than five hours of sleep doubled it again.
So, what can cause drowsy driving? Here are few reasons:
- Shift workers or individuals with irregular sleep patterns are more susceptible.
- The most common cause is not getting enough sleep. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Conditions like sleep apnea can severely affect sleep quality.
- Some medications and alcohol can increase drowsiness.
- Long, monotonous driving without breaks can induce fatigue.
But there are certain things we can all do to prevent accidents due to drowsy driving:
- Ensure you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, especially before long drives.
- Take regular breaks every two hours or every 100 miles on long trips.
- Avoid driving during your body’s natural sleep times, usually between midnight and 6 a.m.
- Recognize the signs of drowsiness including frequent yawning or blinking, difficulty remembering the past few miles driven, missing exits or traffic signs, and drifting from your lane.
- If you feel drowsy, pull over to a safe place and take a 15-20 minute nap.
- When possible, drive with a companion who can take turns driving and help keep you awake.
- Be aware of the side effects of any medications you are taking. Consult your doctor or pharmacist about their impact on your alertness.
- Caffeine can help improve alertness for a short period. However, it’s not a long-term solution and should not replace adequate sleep.
Drowsy drivers may find themselves weaving back and forth between lanes. They may have trouble maintaining the right speed and keeping an appropriate distance from other vehicles, and may be unable to react in time to avoid an obstacle. A significant proportion of drowsy driving accidents involve a single driver driving off the road or into another lane at high speed. Driving on a monotonous road or driving alone may increase the likelihood of a crash.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.