Drowsy Driving Is a Bigger Problem Than You Realize

All drivers have at some point gotten behind the wheel completely exhausted. But according to AAA Northeast, drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving and plays a major role in motor vehicle crashes, more now than ever before.

Whether you were up with your infant all night, had an incredibly long day at the office, worked a double shift, or missed sleep because of a family emergency, driving when tired has led to far too many fatalities on the road. Some people experience drowsy driving because of the medications they take, but then they have to decide between a medicine they need and getting to where they need to go. Other people are behind the wheel professionally, driving commercial vehicles and dealing with monotonous and lengthy shifts and not getting enough breaks for rest. And still more people suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Drowsy driving is becoming an epidemic, just like drunk driving and distracted driving. In fact, there is no difference between drunk behavior and tired behavior when it comes to driving. An Australian study found that being awake for 18 hours created an impairment that is equal to a .05 BAC, and increased to .10 after 24 hours.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports the following frightening statistics about drowsy driving:

  • 21 percent of fatal crashes involve drowsy drivers, a 16.5 percent increase since 2010.
  • Nearly 330,000 crashes involving a drowsy driver occur annually across the nation.
  • 37 percent of drivers admit that, at some point in their lives, they have fallen asleep behind the wheel.
  • Over half of all drowsy driving crashes are caused when drivers drift off of the road or out of their own lane.

It should come as no surprise that teenagers are one of the most sleep-deprived demographics. This age group should typically be getting more sleep than anyone so that they develop properly and get adequate rest. However, after-school activities, studying, applying for college, and working all lead to not enough sleep for teens. And teens are already one of the higher-risk age groups on the highway with their inexperience, feelings of infallibility, and dangerous distractions by their smartphone. Any combination of these factors, along with drowsiness, can lead to disaster.

Reinforce the seriousness of drowsy driving to your teen, and remind yourself of the incredible dangers of getting behind the wheel when you are completely exhausted. If you have a long drive ahead that you cannot avoid, or you must get to where you are going even though you’re utterly spent, keep the following in mind:

  • Pull over immediately if you feel drowsy. Park in a safe place and take a brief nap.
  • If you can, travel with an alert passenger who can make sure you are awake behind the wheel or, far better, relieve you of the driving duty.
  • Do not think that energy drinks, a blasting radio, coffee, soda, or open windows are a substitute for sleep.
  • For longer trips, schedule breaks every 100 miles or every two hours to revive yourself.
  • Do not travel at times when you are typically tired. If you must drive, get behind the wheel when you are normally wide awake.
  • If you sleep less than six hours, your chances of falling asleep behind the wheel are increased.

If you are sleepy, do not drive.

About: David Christensen is an accident injury attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He specializes in helping auto accident victims secure benefits from insurance companies and at-fault drivers.

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