Drowsy driving a major threat to safety

Many people are aware of the dangers of distracted driving and drunk driving. Lawmakers across the country have passed laws addressing those issues. However, fewer people are aware of how much of a threat drowsy driving is to public safety.

Dangers of drowsy driving

According to the National Sleep Foundation's white paper on drowsy driving, driving while fatigued is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. When people are tired, it affects their vigilance, reaction times, memory, coordination, abilities to process information and decision-making functions - all of which impact driving performance.

The American Automobile Association estimates that about one in every six fatal motor vehicle accidents and one in every eight accidents causing injuries requiring hospitalization are attributable to drowsy driving. Some experts suggest that these figures are too low and also do not reflect the number of near-misses that drowsy drivers have.

Young people more likely to drive while too tired

A study that the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted in conjunction with Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, November 12-18, 2012, revealed that drivers aged 16 to 24 years old were more likely to drive while tired than any other age group. One in seven drivers in that age range admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once in the past year, compared to one in 10 of all licensed drivers who fell asleep behind the wheel within the past year.

Preventing accidents due to sleepiness

Drivers can follow a few simple steps to reduce the likelihood of being involved in an auto accident resulting from being too tired to drive:

  • Get adequate sleep: When people know they have long car trips ahead of them the next day, such as the case when people travel to visit family for holidays or go on vacation, it is critical to get a good night's rest the evening before.
  • Take turns driving: On long car trips, it is wise to have at least two people alternate driving so that no one person becomes too fatigued.
  • Take breaks: A driver should take periodic breaks from driving to avoid slipping into a trance-like state from staring at the road for too long. Experts recommend stopping every 100 miles or two hours.
  • Take a nap: If a driver finds he or she is too tired to drive safely, it is wise to find a safe place to pull over, such as a rest stop, and take a 15-to-20 minute nap.
  • Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness: Alcohol is a depressant and causes people to become tired. Some medications may also make people sleepy. People need to be aware of how their medications affect their alertness.

Speak with a lawyer

Drivers have a responsibility to make sure they are in good physical condition for driving before getting behind the wheel. If a person fails to meet that duty and causes an accident, he or she could be liable for the damage and injuries that result. If you have been injured in an auto accident, talk to an experienced attorney who can help you recover for your losses.