How Dangerous Is Drowsy Driving?

September 12, 2017

We have all heard about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving. Drugs, alcohol, and cell phone use play a role in many serious and fatal crashes in our area. However, drowsy driving can prove to be dangerous, as well. Like drugs or alcohol, drowsiness decreases awareness, slows reaction time, impairs judgment, and increases the risk of crashing.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine what percentage of injury causing and fatal crashes involved drowsy driving. Unlike alcohol or drug-related crashes, there is no blood test for drowsiness behind the wheel. This makes it difficult for a police officer to objectively determine if sleepiness played a role in an accident. However, investigators might rely on certain cues to ascertain if a driver fell asleep behind the wheel. For example, if a crash involves only one vehicle, there are no skid marks, and the driver was seriously injured, it’s likely that the victim fell asleep while driving.

Causes of Drowsiness

There are several underlying possible causes of drowsiness or fatigue. These include:

  • Lack of sleep or loss of normal sleep.
  • Interrupted sleep or accumulation of sleep debt.
  • Long trips leading to fatigue.
  • Undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders.
  • Fluctuating or flexible work schedules.
  • Consumption of alcohol.

These risk factors all have cumulative effects. In other words, a combination of these factors could seriously increase your risk of being involved in a crash.

Tips for Avoiding Drowsy Driving Accidents

Accidents involving drowsy drivers can be serious, especially if they fall asleep at the wheel. Like accidents involving drunk drivers, these crashes can result in catastrophic injury. To reduce the risk of a drowsy driving crash, observe the following tips:
1.Make sleep a priority. In today’s fast-paced society, we often feel like there aren’t not enough hours in the day. It’s tempting to put off sleep to get through all the tasks we need to do. However, lack of sleep can actually make you less productive – and it also increases your risk of being in an accident. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven to nine hours a night.
2. Break up long trips. When taking long road trips, take turns driving or make frequent stops to stretch your legs and refresh. Always get a hotel room instead of trying to “push through” the trip overnight.
3. Limit night driving. You’re more likely to encounter a sleepy driver in the nighttime hours. The glare of the lights on the highway or in your dashboard are also more likely to make you sleepy and increase driver fatigue.
4. If you feel very drowsy, pull over. No deadline or destination is worth your life. Get to the side of the road and take a nap.
5. Keep your indoor environment stimulating. Listen to energizing music, keep your car cold, and avoid using cruise control. Keep yourself actively involved in the driving process to reduce your risk of becoming fatigued.
Drowsy driving can be dangerous not only to you, but other drivers on the road. Thankfully, there are ways you can reduce your risk of being in a drowsy driving accident.