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Being Tired Behind the Wheel: The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Man  inside a car

Drowsy driving occurs when a person operating a vehicle is too fatigued to remain alert. As a result, the driver may have reduced vigilance, slow reaction times, and impaired thinking.

According to the U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is related to at least 100,000 motor-vehicle accidents. About 71,000 drowsy-related car accidents involve non-fatal injuries and more than 1,500 deaths per year. Unless the driver admits falling asleep behind the wheel, drowsy driving can be challenging to detect.

Keep reading to learn about factors commonly associated with drowsy-driving crashes and some helpful tips to avoid falling asleep at the wheel.

Who’s at Risk?

In general, since all humans require sleep daily, any driver can succumb to fatigue or be at higher risk for a decrease in alertness. Overall, there are several underlying causes of drowsy driving. They include sleep loss, interruption or fragmentation, circadian factors associated with driving patterns, work schedules, medication, and alcohol consumption when already fatigued. These factors have cumulative effects, and a combination of any of these increases a driver’s risk of crashing considerably.

Crashes and Fatality Impact of Drowsy Driving

Drivers are three times more likely to be in an accident if they’re fatigued. Drivers’ reaction times, awareness of hazards, and ability to sustain attention all worsen the drowsier the driver is. Driving after going more than 20 or more hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a 0.08% blood-alcohol concentration, which is the U.S. legal limit. A driver might not even know when they are exhausted because signs of fatigue are hard to identify.

Drowsy-driving accidents occur most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m., or in the late afternoon. During these times of the day, people experience dips in their circadian rhythm, which is the human body’s internal clock that regulates sleep. They also often involve only a single driver (with no passengers) running off the road at high speed with no evidence of braking. They also frequently occur on rural roads and highways.

Preventative Measures Before Hitting the Road

Getting enough sleep daily is the only real way to protect yourself against drowsy driving. Experts urge drivers to make it a priority to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Below are some other ways you can prevent a drowsy driving crash:

  1. Before the start of a family road trip, get a good night’s sleep to avoid putting your entire family or others at risk.
  2. Many teens do not get enough sleep, even when their biological need for sleep increases. This makes them vulnerable to the risk of drowsy-driving crashes, especially while on longer road trips. Advise your teens to wait to drive until they’re well-rested.
  3. Avoid drinking alcohol before driving. Alcohol consumption intensifies sleepiness, drowsiness and impairment.
  4. Check your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications to see if drowsiness could result from their use. Use public transportation when possible if your medications cause drowsiness as a side effect.
  5. Avoid driving during peak sleepiness periods, which are midnight – 6 a.m. and late afternoon. If you must drive during these times, always stay vigilant for signs of drowsiness, which includes difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and yawning, missing exit or traffic signs and swerving and drifting from your lane.

What to Do If You’re Involved in a Drowsy Driving Car Accident.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a drowsy driving accident, the compassionate Arkansas Personal Injury Attorneys at Caddell Reynolds will help you to figure out your best options to move forward.

To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us at (800) 889-6944 today!

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