Dangers of Driving While You Are Tired
If you ask people about texting while driving, they will probably tell you that it is dangerous behavior that results in crashes, and it certainly is. However, if you ask people about driving while they are tired or fatigued, they may tell you that it is not a very big deal.
Recent studies tell a very different story. A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that fatigue may be a cause of 20% or more of all car crashes. If correct, that means that 1 or more of every 5 car crashes is caused by fatigue.
Experts from the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prepared a report Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes in which they explain that sleepiness affects driving in several ways:
- slows reaction time
- reduces vigilance
- causes us to process information poorly
This group explained it is not just long term sleep loss that adversely affects our driving ability. The loss of just a single night’s sleep can make a difference. Also, don’t think being young makes you immune from drowsy driving. It is actually males ages 16 to 29 who are most likely to be involved in a crash because of drowsiness/fatigue.
Even if you generally get enough sleep, this time of year you may not. Schedules get packed with end of year work deadlines. We have added social obligations with work and family. There are extra hours that go into getting ready for the holidays. Since we can’t make more hours in a day, we often end up giving up sleep to make time for these extras.
Ann-Margaret Perkins specializes in representing those who have been injured in automobile accidents. Because of that, we often meet men and women with serious injuries that could have been prevented if more caution were taken. Because “fall-asleep” crashes are likely to be serious, we want to encourage everyone to do all that can be done to prevent them. Here are some tips that may be helpful:
- Don’t drive after midnight (Most crashes from driving fatigued happen after midnight).
- Don’t take medications that sedate you.
- Don’t drink any alcohol and drive (even a little bit of alcohol can amplify drowsiness).
- If you feel sleepy, STOP and get a good night’s sleep.
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel drowsy but cannot stop and get several hours of good sleep, here are a couple of other helpful tips:
- Pull over and take a short nap of 15-20 minutes.
- Drink at least two cups of coffee or its equivalent.
If you do fall asleep and get awakened by those noisy rumble strips or just get lucky and wake up before you crash, don’t keep driving. Research shows that a driver who falls asleep once is likely to fall asleep again unless he stops driving. Please take driving wide awake as seriously as you do not texting and driving. It may save your life or the life of someone else.