There’s an inherent risk of an accident every time you drive a car, but operating a vehicle while feeling sleepy amplifies that risk considerably. While most people know about the hazards of driving while intoxicated or distracted, many drivers still don’t understand the dangers of drowsy driving, which is why it’s still a prominent cause of fatal crashes.
We’ll explain how dangerous driving while drowsy is, how to tell if you’re too tired to sit behind the wheel, and what to do if you need legal representation following a drowsy driving collision.
On average, 4% of adult drivers nationwide fell asleep while driving within the past month. In a state like Florida, with millions of licensed vehicle operators and hundreds of packed city streets, people lose complete control of their multi-ton cars regularly.
However, driving while sleep-deprived is still a massive risk, even while awake at the wheel. Studies show that missing 24 hours of sleep has the same mental impairment as having a 0.10 blood alcohol content (BAC) level, well above the 0.8 BAC legal limit.
Fatigue reduces your reaction time and judgment, and those impairments cause roughly 100,000 accidents and 71,000 injuries annually. In addition, over 20% of fatal vehicle accidents happen when at least one person is sleep-deprived.
The dangers of drowsy driving involve more than physical harm. Sleep deprivation-related auto accidents are responsible for more than $12 billion in property damage and losses from drivers losing control and veering off the road and into buildings and other structures.
The main reason drowsy driving is so prevalent is that it has several causes beyond sleep deprivation that many drivers overlook.
Sleep disorders are a major cause of drowsy driving that are easy to ignore because people with them often fall asleep quickly and stay asleep through the night. Even if someone with sleep apnea or a similar disorder rests for eight hours, they’re not receiving the healthy sleep they need to stave off drowsiness. That often leads to adverse reaction time and diminished judgment even during the day.
Most drowsy driving accidents happen at night, but daytime drowsy driving is more dangerous than in the evening since this is when there are more people on the streets and in the cities.
Substances like alcohol and medicine are other common causes of drowsy driving. Any amount of alcohol above or below the legal limit leads to sleepiness and causes many auto accidents. Similarly, many medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, list drowsiness as a side effect, and taking those medicines before driving can put you and your fellow drivers at risk.
The Warning Signs
Identifying the warning signs of sleep deprivation, either before driving or while on the road, can keep you safe from the dangers of drowsy driving.
The obvious warning signs are any feelings of fatigue. If you sense yourself dozing off, struggling to keep your eyes open, or yawning frequently, you’re experiencing telltale signs that your body is too tired to drive. Even smaller symptoms of sleep deprivation, like short-term memory struggles or frequent blinking, are significant signs that you shouldn’t be behind the wheel.
Drowsy driving warning signs show up in your driving ability as well. For example, if you’re drifting off-road or between lanes, following too close or too far behind other cars, or responding late to exits and directions, your reaction time isn’t what it should be to drive.
What You Should Do if You Experience Warning Signs While Driving
You shouldn’t risk the dangers of drowsy driving if you’re feeling any of the fatigue warning signs listed above. So, what should you do if you sense those symptoms while you’re already on the road?
Pulling over as soon as possible and resting as much as you need to complete your journey is the safest way to avoid drowsy driving. Rest stops are great emergency options if you’re driving on the freeway. You can also switch drivers if you’re traveling with a passenger.
Caffeine also helps you stay awake in short bursts, but you shouldn’t rely on an energy drink or cup of coffee to power you through a lengthy journey. That energy boost wears off quickly and can make you even more tired if you’re already sleep-deprived, all for a 20 to 30 minute jolt.
Some drivers instinctively blast their radio or roll down the windows when they feel sleepy on the road, believing the air and noise are great enough distractions to keep them awake. However, studies show those techniques won’t keep you awake, and resting before finishing your trip is the safest option. However, listening to a professional stand-up comedian can keep your mind alert. Download some of your favorite recordings to listen to on a long road trip.
How to Avoid the Dangers of Drowsy Driving
The best way to stay safe on the road is to ensure you don’t become drowsy during your travels. The strongest method for maintaining stamina is to sleep plenty before you drive and plan multiple stops if you have a long journey.
Spending all day in a car without a break is more exhausting than people realize, so rather than cramming a 12-hour drive into one session, break it up into two sessions with a motel stop in between.
Avoiding alcohol and unnecessary medications and bringing a travel buddy to chat with and keep you engaged are other small ways to keep you awake on the road.
Legal Representation Dedicated to Your Well Being
The dangers of drowsy driving destroy lives daily. If you’re experiencing hardship brought on by sleep-deprived driving, Attorney Pam Olsen will help you through it.
Pam has years of experience as a car accident lawyer in Ocala. When you schedule a free consultation, she will hear your story and help you determine your best course of legal action. her today at (352) 671-9777 to learn more.
Ms. Olsen has practiced law since 1992. During her law school education and throughout career she knew, if it is not about people, she is not interested. Everything about people interests Ms. Olsen from the simple details of living to the most profound. She began her law career in a skyscraper in downtown Miami representing corporate interests. Within a VERY short time, Pam knew that side of the things in the world was not for her.