When you think of impaired driving, you most likely think of drunk or drugged driving. As society has begun to get wise about the perils of driving under the influence, more and more programs and enforcement laws are being created to stop DUIs. In fact, in addition to national programs, many states and cities have begun to instigate their own programs to decrease DUI accidents.
Although this is a big step in preventing impaired driving accidents, DUIs make up only a fraction of impaired driving accidents. An even more serious issue affects thousands of drivers each year, without the luxury of choice. That issue is sleep deprivation.
Drowsy Driving 101
Driving drowsy causes nearly as many serious injury and fatal car accidents as drunk or drugged driving. The Center for Disease Control estimates that one out of every 25 drivers has fallen or will fall asleep while driving this month, causing upwards of 70,000 collisions. The Automobile Association of America (AAA) estimates that one out of eight traffic accidents are caused by motorists who can’t stay awake—and that drowsy driving is a factor in one of every six fatal crashes.
Considering your risks, don’t you think it’s about time for a wake-up call on drowsy driving causes, warning signs, and prevention? We do!
A variety of circumstances can cause a driver to become sleepy. Anything from a bad night’s rest to a long day’s work can result in mental and physical exhaustion. Other more subtle factors can include:
- Monotonous scenery. Seeing the same things over and over again can put you in a sort of trance; it’s sometimes called “highway hypnosis.”
- Comfortable temperatures. Having the heat blasting on a cold day, or the sweet flow of air conditioning on a hot day can shock your system creating an overly relaxed sensation which can aid to fatigue.
- Lack of caffeine. When you’re accustomed to a daily coffee fix, going without the magical elixir can cause you to become tired extremely quickly.
No matter the cause of your fatigue, you need to remember that when a driver grows weary behind the wheel he’s just as likely to hurt himself and others as someone who is driving drunk or drugged. Just as alcohol and drugs affect cognitive function, fatigue can have a dangerous affect on your coordination, memory, reflexes, attention, and reaction time.
Of those involved in sleep-related automobile crashes, only half reported feeling drowsy before the accident, and one-fourth reported no apparent drowsiness at all. However, although you may not feel particularly tired, there are tell-tale signs that fatigue has set in. These signs include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Memory lapses
- Inability to stay in your lane
- Difficulty keeping eyes open
- Frequent blinking or head nodding
To determine if sleepiness was a factor, traffic investigators consider whether there was any braking, skid marks or other signs a driver made any attempt to stop or avoid crashing.
When you notice any signs that you may be getting too tired to drive, try these simple tricks to prevent a drowsy driving accident:
- Pull off and take a short nap (at least 20 minutes). This is by far the best solution.
- Increase your caffeine intake. Although caffeine can help ward off fatigue for a short period of time, be careful with this solution as it isn’t a permanent fix. It can help you until you can find a safe place to rest, but coffee, soda, energy drinks, and caffeine pills should not be used as an alternative to sleep.
- Talk or sing. Start up a conversation or sing to the radio to keep yourself alert. This, too, is an imperfect solution—the activity may stop you from falling asleep, but it may also distract your attention from the road.
Education and Security
Unfortunately many motorists don’t recognize or ignore signs their driving skills may be diminishing due to drowsiness. While they may be aware of occasional lapses in wakefulness, they may overlook brief moments when they doze, making them less able to respond to changing road conditions or unexpected moves by other drivers.
Our accident attorneys are dedicated to the safety of our clients. This why we’ve spent the last 20 years educating our clients on the dangers motorists face from impaired drivers. We know the effects a catastrophic accident can have on your future, which is why we urge you to take every precaution when you get behind the wheel. Should you be involved in an accident call us at 386.673.4412 or toll-free at 800.556.8890 for a free consultation.