Drowsy driving is a serious and often underestimated threat on the roads. It’s not as widely discussed as drunk or distracted driving, but its consequences can be just as devastating.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving is involved in about 21% of fatal wrecks and causes billions of dollars worth of damage every year.
Why is drowsy driving so dangerous?
When you’re tired, your ability to concentrate, make decisions, and react quickly diminishes. This can lead to poor judgment on the road. Fatigue also reduces your alertness, making it harder to stay focused on the road ahead and recognize potential hazards – and your reaction times may be significantly slower than when you’re alert. Drowsy drivers are even at risk of experiencing “microsleeps,” brief episodes of sleep that last only a few seconds but can be long enough to cause a catastrophic accident if you’re behind the wheel.
How can you combat drowsy driving?
You can do much about any other drivers out there on the road who are sleep-deprived, but you can take steps to reduce the risk of you’ll cause an accident yourself due to fatigue:
- Get adequate sleep: The most effective way to combat drowsy driving is to get enough sleep. Adults should aim for eight hours of quality sleep per night since getting even just six or seven hours at night doubles the chances you’ll be in a crash.
- Plan ahead for long trips: If you know you’ll be driving long distances, plan your trips with breaks in mind. Try to avoid driving during your body’s natural sleep hours, typically between midnight and 6 a.m.
- Share the load: If possible, share the driving responsibilities with a friend or family member. Having someone else in the car can help keep you awake and alert.
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration can make you feel sluggish. Stay hydrated with water (not coffee, which can give you a temporary burst of energy followed by more fatigue).
- Watch your medications: It’s cold and flu season, so be careful with over-the-counter medications that make you sleepy.
Finally, listen to your body. Pay attention to warning signs like heavy eyelids, yawning or drifting out of your lane. If you experience any of these, pull over to a safe location and take a short nap or switch drivers, if possible.
You may not be able to tell immediately if a driver who hits you is drowsy or not, especially since the adrenaline from the wreck may mask fatigue. However, every injury victim should explore the possibility of compensation for their losses because there is a possibility that “invisible” factors, like fatigue, could have played a role in the causation of their harm. Seeking legal guidance can help crash victims to uncover the truth.