The Dangers of Drowsy Driving
By: Good2GoPublished: May 12, 2014
You had a long day at work and the only thing on your mind is getting home and crawling into bed, only to wake up and start your shift all over again. As soon as you get behind the wheel, you start to doze off without realizing you’ve totaled your car.
Falling asleep at the wheel is a very dangerous situation. What’s worse is that the effects of sleepiness are similar to the effects of drinking and driving. That’s because drivers become less attentive, have slower reaction times, and have difficulty making clear decisions. In this post, we review the dangers of drowsy driving and what you can do to stay awake and alert at the wheel.
What is drowsy driving?
Drowsy driving, sleep deprived driving, or fatigued driving can be characterized as the operation of a motor vehicle while being cognitively impaired by a lack of sleep. Unlike alcohol or drug related crashes, there is no blood, breath, or other objective test for sleepiness. While it is difficult to determine if a car accident was caused by drowsy driving, there are a few tell-tale signs, such as an accident involving only one car where the driver is alone and the injuries are serious or fatal, as well as the absence of skid marks or evidence of evasive maneuvers.
Drowsy driving statistics
In a report conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it was estimated that 2.5% of fatal crashes and 2% of injury crashes involve drowsy driving. That means between 5,000 and 6,000 fatal crashes each year are caused by drowsy drivers.
A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety surveyed 2,000 U.S. residents 16 years of age and older, via landline and cell phone, from May 11, 2010 through June 7, 2010. AAA found that 41% of drivers reported having fallen asleep or nodded off while driving, including 3.9% within the past month, 7.1% within the past 6 months, and 11.0% within the past 12 months.
The survey also found that:
- Drivers ages 16-24 were the most likely to report having fallen asleep while driving within the past year
- Men were much more likely than women to report having fallen asleep while driving
- 56% of drivers said that the last time they recall falling asleep at the wheel occurred on a multi-lane divided highway
- 27.7% reported that they realized before they started driving that they might have difficulty staying awake
- 71.0% reported having felt awake enough to drive
So who is more likely to have heavy eyelids when getting behind the wheel?
- Commercial drivers
- Shift workers (working a night shift or long shifts)
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy
- Drivers who use sedating medications
- Drivers who do not get adequate sleep (less than 6 hours)
- Young people, especially males (between the ages 16 to 29)
What are the warning signs of sleepiness?
Be on the lookout for these warning signs of sleepiness or sleep-deprived driving before you or a loved one get behind the wheel:
- Difficulty keeping your eyes open and/or having heavy eyelids
- Difficulty keeping your head up
- Repeated yawning and rubbing your eyes
- Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating, and/or hitting rumble strips
- Difficulty remembering the last few miles driven
- Missing traffic signs or driving past your intended exit
- Feeling irritable or restless
How do I prevent drowsy driving?
To remain alert and prevent sleeping while driving, follow these simple tips:
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep the night before a long trip
- Travel at times when you are normally awake
- Travel with an awake/alert passenger
- Stop driving if you become sleepy and take a nap
- Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
- Drink a caffeinated beverage 20-30 minutes before hitting the road again
- Don’t drink and drive
- If you have a sleep disorder, take your medication or seek treatment
- Don’t take sedating medications before driving
Drowsy driving can affect your health, your safety and the safety of others. Don’t underestimate the effects of a good night’s sleep.
Protect yourself affordably with Good2Go.com auto insurance. Get a cheap car insurance quote today.