12 Days of Holiday Safety: Drowsy Driving

Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. A good night’s sleep should be a regular part of everyone’s daily schedule. But when a person doesn’t get enough sleep, the results can be disastrous, even more so behind the wheel of a car.

Drowsy driving crashes result in at least 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses annually.  In fact, half of Americans consistently report that they have driven drowsy and approximately 37% admit that they have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the previous year. AAA Foundation research has found that 1 out of every 5 fatal crashes is a result of drowsy driving.

November 6th marks the beginning of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. This annual campaign from the National Sleep Foundation provides public education about the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy, in an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes on American roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This number is almost double what it was 20 years ago and is likely very conservative, given that there is no equivalent test to determine sleepiness as there is for intoxication.

In fact, drivers who miss two or three hours of sleep in a day face the same risk of an accident as those who are legally drunk. Jail sentences have resulted due to drowsy driving.

Drowsy driving incidents have found should you find yourself feeling sleepy behind the wheel, it’s crucial to stop driving. The National Sleep Foundation highlights several warning signs that you’re too drowsy to drive, including difficulty focusing, difficulty staving off daydreams, drifting from your lane, missing traffic signs, feeling restless or irritable and — of course — heavy eyelids or trouble keeping your head up.

The Importance of Sleep To Combat Drowsy Driving

The best way to avoid a drowsy driving crash is to get adequate sleep on a regular basis, practice good sleep habits, and to seek treatment for sleep problems, should they arise. After being awake for 18 hours, you are impaired as a person who is legally drunk. Drowsy driving is deadly, but it is also preventable.

Below are some important driving dos and don’ts, according to the National Sleep Institute:

Drowsy Driving: Don’ts

Drive if you are tired or on medication that may cause drowsiness.(Check medication labels and speak to your doctor)

Rely on the radio, an open window or other tricks to keep you awake.

Drive at times when you would normally be sleeping.

Drink even a small amount of alcohol, especially if you are sleepy.

Drowsy Driving: Do’s

Get a good night’s sleep before a long drive.

Get off the road if you notice any of the warning signs of fatigue.

Take a nap – find a safe place to take a 15 to 20-minute nap.

Consume caffeine – the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours, but do not rely on it for long periods.

Try consuming caffeine before taking a short nap to get the benefits of both.

Drive with a friend. A passenger who remains awake can help watch for signs of fatigue in the driver and can take a turn driving, if necessary.

Schedule a break every 2 hours

Always wear your seatbelt

Who’s Most at Risk?

According to Tuck.com, every driver is susceptible to drowsy driving, although some groups of people are more at risk than others.

Young drivers – Combining inexperience with sleepiness and a tendency to drive at night puts young people at risk, especially males aged 18-29.

Shift workers and people working long hours – People who work night shifts, rotating shifts, double shifts or work more than one job have a higher risk of being involved in a drowsy driving accident. For example, medical interns who work 24-hour shifts or longer are more than twice as likely to be involved in a crash, and five times as likely to experience a ‘near-miss’ incident.

Commercial drivers – Those who drive a high number of miles and drive at night are at significantly higher risk for fall-asleep crashes. Commercial drivers have also been found to be at a high risk for sleep disorders.

People with untreated sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – People with untreated OSA are up to seven times more likely to have a drowsy driving crash. For some people, insomnia can increase fatigue.

Business travelers – Frequent travelers who may be suffering from jet lag and crossing time zones, spending long hours behind the wheel or getting too little sleep.

Adults with children in the household are more likely to drive drowsy than those without children.

How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

At The Carlson Law Firm, we believe in safety first. We urge you to be a responsible driver and ensure that you are well rested before getting behind the wheel.

Our Texas auto accident attorneys hold negligent drivers accountable because drivers who have engaged in negligent driving behavior must be held accountable for the actions. At The Carlson Law Firm, we take our promise to serve very seriously.

We believe that distracted drivers should be held accountable for the damage they cause. Our seasoned car accident lawyers help victims of automobile accidents caused by the negligence of others in Texas. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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