According to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019, 697 lives were lost because of accidents involving drowsy driving. Countless others have also suffered serious injuries because of fatigued driving crashes. This article will discuss the causes and effects of driver fatigue and ways to prevent drowsy driving.
What Causes Driver Fatigue?
Drivers and motorcyclists may become tired for a variety of reasons, including:
- Having been awake for a long time (i.e. a truck driver driving cross country, a teen driver with a demanding schedule, a parent with a newborn, etc.)
- Not getting enough quality sleep for multiple days
- Driving during a specific time of day (i.e. early mornings or late nights may signal your body that it’s time to sleep rather than be alert)
- Driving in an area with no landmark, while doing monotonous tasks, or with a long period of inactivity
- Suffering from a sleep disorder of the side effects of a medication
What Are the Effects of Driver Fatigue?
If a driver is tired, they may nod off or fall asleep at the wheel. In other cases, they may:
- Have a slower reaction time. If you are sleep deprived, your motor functions will be affected, which means that you will react slower and not be as vigilant as you normally are. Even a small delay in hitting your brake or noticing another vehicle or pedestrian can lead to a crash.
- Make unsafe driving decisions. Drowsy drivers often make poor or reckless decisions that endanger themselves and others on the road.
- Drift between lanes. If you nod off or microsleep, you may swerve in and out of your lane or drift into another lane unintentionally. If someone else is on the road, you may get into an accident.
- Experience tunnel vision. Some people who are drowsy experience tunnel vision, which affects your ability to see what’s happening in your periphery vision. Your peripheral vision is the vision/ability to see out of the corner of your eyes, which can impact safe lane changes and more.
- Microsleep. Microsleep refers to sleep episodes that last from a fraction of a second to 30 seconds, and drowsy drivers may sleep for short period without even realizing it.
- Forget the drive. Drivers suffering from fatigue often do not remember their drive and forget a few miles or even the whole drive to their destination.
Recognizing the Signs of Drowsy Driving
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one out of every twenty-five adults have reportedly fallen asleep while driving within a month-long period. You or another driver may be drowsy if you:
- Blink or yawn excessively
- Repeatedly miss your exit or turn
- Have difficulties remembering the last few minutes or miles of driving
- Keep hitting the rumble strip
- Struggle to keep your head up
- Drift from lane to lane
Preventing Drowsy Driving Accidents
Whether you’re tired from driving for hours on a family road trip, drowsy after work, or tired because of the side effects of a medicine, you should avoid driving drowsy. If you experience any of the aforementioned warning signs or just feel tired, pull over to a safe location and take a power nap. You can also change drivers if you are not traveling alone.
To stay safe and prevent drowsy driving and related accidents, you should also consider:
- Including rest time in your schedule for long road trips
- Getting a good night’s sleep
- Caffeinating before or during a challenging drive
- Avoiding sedatives, alcohol, or medicines that make you drowsy (like allergy pills, Benadryl, etc.)
- Watching for warning signs of fatigued driving
- Utilizing helpful technology like drowsiness alerts or lane departure detections
- Avoiding the use of tricks to stay awake (like driving with the window down, listening to loud music, etc.) instead of pulling over or switching drivers
- Engaging in healthy sleep habits (like having set bedtime, avoiding electronics before ed, etc.) consistently
Injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence and/or drowsiness? Contact The Dickinson Law Firm to schedule a case consultation by calling (770) 766-7739 today.