Hopping in your car to drive after a long night of poor sleep may not seem like a big deal, but drowsy driving is a lot more dangerous than you may think. In fact, the CDC estimates that 6,000 fatal crashes are caused by drowsy driving every year, although exact numbers are hard to determine. Some studies even speculate that 15-33 percent of fatal crashes may involve drowsiness. What do you need to know to protect yourself?
Drowsy Driving Is Similar to Drunk Driving
Even if a driver does not fall asleep, drowsiness can severely impact someone's ability to drive, impairing reaction time and decision-making, as the CDC reported.
One of the reasons driving drowsy is so dangerous is because sleep deprivation can mimic the effects of drinking alcohol; you have a slower reaction time, your ability to make decisions is affected, and it becomes more difficult to pay attention to the road.
If you have been awake for 18 hours, it can cause you to drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05. That is only .03 percent away from the legal limit of .08. Once you have been awake for over 24 hours, it can affect you in the same way as having a blood alcohol level of .10.
As Dr. David Yang, an executive director of traffic safety for the AAA Foundation said, “Our new research shows that a driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk."
Even missing a single hour of sleep can be dangerous. One AAA Foundation study found that missing one or two hours, of the recommended seven, doubles a driver's risk of crashing. Missing two to three hours quadruples the risk! They advise prioritizing getting seven hours of sleep. Drivers cannot just rely on their bodies and their sense of feeling tired or awake, as many drivers don't even feel tired before falling asleep at the wheel.
Not only does driving while drowsy increase your odds of being in an accident, it also increases the odds that such an accident will be fatal. According to the CDC, "drowsy driving crashes are more likely to result in injuries and fatalities than non-drowsy driving crashes."
If you were in a crash involving drowsy driving, contact our offices for a free consultation.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
The CDC reports that 35 percent of American adults regularly do not get enough sleep. This is even worse in the Southeast. Are you one of the 35 percent operating on too little sleep? Make sure you get enough sleep before going out on the road. If you are having trouble sleeping, try these tips from the Mayo Clinic:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Be careful what you eat and drink before bed
- Create a "cool, dark, and quiet" environment
- Don't take long naps in the daytime (unless you work a night job)
- Remember to get regular physical activity
- Manage stress
How to Identify Signs of Drowsy Driving
Unfortunately, drowsy driving is common. It is estimated that 60 percent of adults have gotten behind the wheel while drowsy and about one third have actually fallen asleep while driving. If you think you may be in this category, make sure you’re aware of the signs you may be too sleepy to drive.
If you start yawning frequently or have trouble keeping your eyes open, keep missing your turn or exit, have trouble recalling the past few miles you have driven, or start drifting from your lane, you may need to pull over and rest, especially if you are driving long distances. It's not enough to just turn up the radio volume or slap yourself. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that such techniques for staying awake only work for a minute or two. They are not effective.
If you find yourself feeling drowsy while driving often, try altering your sleep schedule to ensure you are getting at least seven hours of sleep per night (or eight, if you are a young adult). Getting enough sleep is harder than ever, but the risk of driving while drowsy is too high.
If you have been involved in an accident with someone who fell asleep at the wheel, give Bart Durham Injury Law a call for your free, no obligation consultation.