The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

It’s time to open our eyes about the dangers of sleepy drivers. Research shows that fatigue can be as great a hazard behind the wheel as alcohol, yet growing numbers of drivers, particularly younger ones, are operating vehicles while struggling to stay awake. In fact, a 2010 study from the American Automobile Association, drawing on a decade’s worth of police reports on traffic crashes, estimated that fatigue was a factor in about one of every six fatal traffic accidents, and in one of every eight crashes that sent a driver or passenger to the hospital.

How Common in Drowsy Driving?

Even more alarming, the AAA phone survey study reported that 41% of drivers admitted that they had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving, and 11% admitted they had done so within the past year. Even more drivers (28%) confessed to having struggled to stay awake behind the wheel during the past month, which included one-third of drivers who were in the 19-24 age group.

As high as these levels are, most safety experts believe they understate the problem, due to memory lapses or unwillingness to admit to unsafe driving. The experts also warn that too few drivers recognize the dangers of drowsy driving. Opinion polls show drivers overwhelmingly recognize alcohol- or drug-impaired driving as unacceptable, but when it comes to operating vehicles while sleep-deprived, many drivers have greater tolerance for the practice of driving while sleepy.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania medical school recently studied how sleep patterns are linked to drowsy driving. They found drivers who said they averaged six or fewer hours of daily sleep were nearly twice as likely to report having trouble staying awake behind the wheel during the past month than were those who got seven or more hours of sleep. Drivers who averaged five or fewer hours’ sleep were nearly four times more likely to report drowsy driving in the past month.

What Makes Drowsy Driving So Dangerous?

Just like vehicle operators impaired by alcohol or drugs, or distracted by a cell phone or electronic device, sleep-deprived drivers exhibit less acute vision, slower reaction times, and a tendency to errors like drifting between lanes, tailgating, or not noticing traffic signs and signals.

Nearly twice as many drowsy drivers in crashes are men than women. Drivers younger than 25 years were 78% more likely to be involved in drowsy-driving crashes than those over the age of 40. Crash reports also showed that drivers without passengers were 81% more likely to drive while drowsy than were drivers travelling with passengers.

Unfortunately, most people are not good at judging how tired they are becoming, so it’s always advisable to be well-rested before driving, to take frequent breaks on long trips, and avoid pushing normal limits. A cup of coffee may help, but don’t rely solely on caffeine to keep you alert, and realize it will take a half hour or so to take effect.

Has a Drowsy Driver Caused Harm? Call on Us.

If you or a family member has been injured by a drowsy driver, call an experienced Indiana auto accident attorney at the Jacobs Law LLC, to learn about your legal options. We offer free initial consultations. To learn more about what sets our practice apart at Jacobs Law, follow us on Twitter @JacobsLawLLC, LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook.

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