As more Americans juggle busy schedules and work longer hours, fatigue has become an unfortunate part of our culture. Insufficient sleep is the culprit.
Fatigue affects everyone, especially drivers. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 800 people were killed in crashes caused by drowsy driving in 2017.
Many fatal crashes involving driver fatigue occur during the late-night and early morning hours (12 a.m. to 6 a.m.), or during the late afternoon — both periods when our circadian rhythms program us to sleep. Drowsy driving crashes also frequently occur on rural roadways or highways involving long stretches with no changes.
The scope of the problem is much greater than we think
In a survey of 2,003 adult drivers conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in September, approximately 906 (45%) said they struggled not to fall asleep behind the wheel at least once. Approximately 359 (46%) were located in the southern region of the U.S.
The survey found that by generation, drowsy driving was most prevalent among people ages 35 to 54. Drowsy driving was also found to impact a large number of respondents ages 55 and above also. Respondents ages 18 to 34 were the least affected by drowsy driving.
Driver fatigue, similar to alcohol-impairment
“Driving while drowsy is similar to drunk driving with regards to the delays in reaction time and impairment in decision-making,” said AASM president Kelly A. Carden, MD. “Drowsy driving can be deadly, yet it is 100 percent preventable.”
Like alcohol-consumption, not getting adequate sleep can cause:
- Delays in reaction time
- Poor judgment
- Loss of coordination
- Reduced attentiveness and ability to concentrate
Warning signs of drowsy driving
Drivers who experience any warning signs (even the subtle ones) of drowsy driving, it's critical that they get off the road as soon as possible. Attempting to endure a long drive or a local commute can have deadly consequences.
Drowsy driving may start with subtle signs, like frequent yawning or blinking. Drivers may then become irritable and restless or begin moving and fidgeting in their seats. These signs are just the beginning.
Drowsy driving becomes more serious when drivers lose memory of the last few miles driven or miss exits and landmarks. They may then begin drifting from their lanes and even hit the rumble strip.
Drowsy drivers can uncontrollably doze off behind the wheel, even for a few seconds. The more they try to fight the sleep, the heavier their eyelids begin to feel and the more tired they become.
A crash can be avoided simply by pulling over somewhere safe, turning off the car, and taking a short nap. Drivers may also stay awake longer by taking frequent brakes, getting out and walking around, and consuming caffeinated beverages.
If you were hurt in a crash with a drowsy driver, it's important that you take legal action as soon as possible. Speak to an experienced Roanoke car accident attorney at Davis, Davis, Davis & Davis, PC to discuss the legal options available to you. Contact our law office online today to learn more.