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Driving Drowsy As Dangerous As Driving Drunk

One in 25 adult (age 16+) drivers reported having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Are you one of these drivers? What many people forget is that driving drowsy is as dangerous as driving drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2013 drowsy driving was

responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths. These numbers may be underestimated. Three independent studies have suggested that drowsy driving was responsible for as many as 6,000 fatal crashes.

Who Drives When Drowsy?

Any of us can find ourselves driving drowsy under the right circumstances. It is late at night, you have been driving all day, and you just want to get home. You have an appointment, but you are tired; typically, you convince yourself you are driving safely. So, who is most likely to drive drowsy? Here is a list of some of the most likely to drive drowsy:

  • People who do not get enough sleep.
  • Shift workers (often after a night shift or after a change of shift).
  • People who take medications that contribute to drowsiness.
  • People with untreated sleep disorders (e.g., sleep apnea). The less you sleep, the more likely you will be driving drowsy. According to a study by the AAA Foundation, people who sleep six to seven hours are twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving related crash as those who sleep for eight hours or more. People who sleep less than five hours, increase their risk by four to five times.
  • Commercial drivers.
  • Adults between the ages of 18 and 29.
  • Men are more likely than women to drive drowsy, and they are twice as likely to fall asleep while driving.
  • Adults with children in the household.
  • An Australian study found that being awake for 18 hours produces the same level of impairment as a blood alcohol level of .05, and .10 after 24 hours. The level at which one is considered legally drunk is .08.

Drowsiness causes several effects in the brain.

These include:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Delayed Reaction Time
  • Loss of attention or focus
  • Failure to identify road risks
  • Inability to maintain stability while driving (drifting out of a lane, driving off the roadway, missed turns, etc.)

What Are the Warning Signs of Drowsiness?

  • Yawning or blinking often.
  • Difficulty remembering the last few miles.
  • Drifting from your lane.
  • Missing an exit or turn.
  • Hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road.

The National Sleep Foundation studied people who reported driving drowsy. They reported a reaction to driving drowsy: 42 percent said they become stressed; 32 percent become impatient; 12 percent tend to drive faster.  The same study also found that only about 22 percent of those polled reported pulling over and napping. Older adults are more likely to pull over than younger drivers. Those younger drivers were most likely to drive drowsy and least likely to pull over for a nap.

Peak Drowsy Driving Crash Times

People are more likely to fall asleep on high-speed, long, boring rural highways. Yet those who lived in urban areas are more likely to doze off compared to those who live in rural or suburban areas.

Most crashes and near misses occur between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m. Two other peak times for drowsy driving related crashes are midnight to 2:00 a.m. and 2:00 to 4:00 pm.

You Can Help to Prevent Drowsy Driving Crashes

There are three ways you can help to prevent drowsy driving related crashes and the related fatalities and injuries. First, conduct a brief self-assessment before getting behind the wheel. Second, pull over immediately if you notice any sign of drowsiness. Either take a nap or have a companion take over the driving. Third, talk to your children about the danger of drowsy driving. The National Sleep Foundation’s 1999 Sleep in America Poll reported that 60 percent of parents with children who drive living in their home said they had not discussed the dangers of falling asleep while driving. The 2002 poll reported that 96 percent of respondents believe that information about driving while drowsy should be included in driver license testing.

If we could end drowsy driving we could prevent thousands of fatalities on our roadways and many serious injuries.  Unfortunately, there is no test like the breathalyzer to detect drowsiness. Highway safety truly depends upon each driver exercising responsibility and self-awareness.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed due to a drowsy driving related crash, call Bettina or Terri. We can help you deal with the results of the crash and build a case to help you obtain justice.