Everybody knows about the dangers of drunk driving. However, fewer people are familiar with another vehicular danger that is equally deadly: drowsy driving. If driving while sleepy sounds like something everyone does from time to time, that's because it is; a study by AAA for Traffic Safety indicates that over 40 percent of drivers admitted to having operated a vehicle while drowsy.
The frightening part is that, not only is drowsy driving rather common, but it is far deadlier than you may realize. Being very tired decreases your awareness when you're trying to drive, slowing your reaction time, and impairing your judgment in much the same way as alcohol or drugs. In fact, if you stay awake for 24 hours, it is the equivalent of consuming six alcoholic beverages.
Statistics don't lie
A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that sleep-related crashes are more common among young males between the ages of 18 and 29. Men are also about 10 percent more likely than women to drive while drowsy and to fall asleep while driving. Perhaps unsurprisingly for anyone who knows how exhausting kids can be, parents with children at home are about 15 percent more likely to drive drowsy.
According to the AAA study, sleep deprivation increases the risk of a sleep-related crash. People who sleep fewer than five hours per night are up to five times as likely to have a car accident as those who sleep more than eight hours, and people who sleep six to seven hours per night are twice as likely.
Tips to avoid drowsy driving
While you cannot do much to make sure other drivers are alert, there are a few things you can do to combat your own risk for drowsiness behind the wheel:
- When possible, drive during times you'd normally be awake anyway
- Get a minimum of six hours of sleep the night before a long driving trip
- Take breaks every 100 miles, or about every two hours
- Drink a beverage containing caffeine; if you're feeling especially sleepy, nap for around 30 minutes while you're waiting for the effects of the caffeine to kick in
- If possible, travel with someone else who can help keep you awake
Are there any warning signs?
There are a few obvious indications that drivers can watch out for, though some are more obvious than others. These include:
- Catching yourself yawning frequently
- Feeling like your eyelids are heavy
- Realizing you've been daydreaming
- Missing road signs or exits
- Feeling irritable and restless
But I was wide awake and driving defensively!
Unfortunately, no matter how alert you are, that doesn't necessarily mean the other driver isn't dozing off behind the wheel. With a conservative estimate of 100,000 police-reported crashes every year that are the direct result of drowsy driving, this could mean trouble for you and your passengers. Car accidents resulting from driver fatigue can mean severe injury or even death. A Staten Island attorney with experience in a variety of car crash cases can offer legal counsel on pursuing the compensation you need and the justice you deserve.