Drowsy driving is operating a motor vehicle when you are tired. As Drowsy Driving Prevention Week approaches, it is important to remember that drowsy driving increases your chances of causing an accident with severe injuries. At White Law PLLC, we want to make sure you are informed with the latest drowsy driving statistics so you can stay safe on the Michigan roadways.
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The Alarming Truth About Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving is dangerous and causes serious accidents and even fatalities every year.
According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, an average of 328,000 motor vehicle accidents occur each year that involve drowsy drivers. Nearly 109,000 of those crashes result in injuries, and 6,400 of them end in fatalities.
Shockingly, one out of every 25 drivers has admitted to driving while drowsy. The National Safety Council (NSC) purports that fatigued drivers are three times more likely to be in a car accident. Driving tired puts everyone on the road at risk.
In addition to physical injuries, drowsy driving causes property damage and other costs to society. The Sleep Foundation estimates that between hospital admissions, property damage, and other costs, drowsy driving costs society between $12.5 billion and $109 billion each year. The physical and financial costs of drowsy driving are tremendous.
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How Drowsy Driving Impacts Safety
Drowsy driving impacts safety in a number of ways. In fact, it is very similar to driving under the influence. Ways in which drowsy driving can impact safety on the roadways include the following:
- Delayed reaction times: As with impaired driving, delayed reaction times can impact a driver’s ability to react quickly to avoid an accident.
- Impaired judgment: A tired driver has reduced vigilance and deficits in information processing and can misjudge distances and speed.
- Inability to focus: When a driver is unable to focus, they may fail to see debris in the roadway or pedestrians until it is too late.
- Falling asleep at the wheel: According to the NSC, if a driver falls asleep for only five seconds at highway speed, their vehicle will travel the length of a football field, which can lead to devastating accidents.
The NSC claims that driving after 20 hours with no sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration equal to the legal limit. We all know that drunk driving is dangerous. However, it has been shown that drowsy driving can be equally as dangerous.
Causes of Drowsy Driving
There are many reasons a driver could be drowsy behind the wheel. While it may not be possible to prevent sleepiness, it is possible to make the decision not to drive. Common causes of drowsy driving include:
- Lack of sleep
- Use of sedating medications
- Untreated sleep disorders
- Alcohol consumption
- Monotonous driving patterns
- Long working hours
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that the risk of motor vehicle accidents is 11.5 times higher for drivers who get less than four hours of sleep. Regardless of the cause, however, drowsy driving can result in tragic outcomes. It is important for all drivers to do what they can to prevent driving while tired.
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Who Is Most at Risk for Drowsy Driving
Anyone can drive while tired and cause an accident. However, there are certain populations that are at higher risk for drowsy driving accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the following groups that are at high risk for drowsy driving:
- Young people: Drivers under the age of 30 account for nearly 66% of drowsy driving accidents, despite representing only 25% of licensed drivers.
- Men: Men are five times more likely to be involved in drowsy driving accidents than women.
- Shift workers: Almost 95% of nurses who work 12-hour night shifts have reported being involved in an accident or near-miss accident while driving home from work, largely because of the disruption in their circadian phase.
- Truck drivers: There are nearly 110,000 sleep-related injuries in motor vehicle accidents involving commercial trucks each year.
- Individuals with untreated sleep disorders: People with untreated narcolepsy and sleep apnea are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents than their treated counterparts.
- Individuals who take certain medications: Some prescription medications cause drowsiness, affect judgment, and reduce coordination.
While everyone should be aware of their level of drowsiness, individuals in these populations should be especially conscious of how sleepy they are before driving. Drowsy driving increases the likelihood of causing accidents. Decreasing motor vehicle accidents also reduces the devastating injuries that can be caused as a result.
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Signs that You May Be Too Drowsy to Drive
To reduce your likelihood of drowsy driving, you must be aware of the signs that indicate you may be sleepy. There are many indicators of drowsiness. Common signs that you may be too drowsy to drive include:
- Frequent yawning
- Head drooping
- Feeling like you need to roll down windows to stay alert
- Continuous blinking
- Unfocused vision
- Having trouble keeping your eyes open
- Missing turns or exits
- Drifting from your lane
- Hitting rumble strips
- Not remembering the last few miles driven
These are key warning signs of drowsy driving. It is important that you can recognize the indicators of drowsiness. If you do exhibit one or more of these signs, you should take certain measures to stay awake and prevent a motor vehicle accident.
Tips for Staying Awake Behind the Wheel
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends several tips to avoid drowsy driving. Taking these measures can dramatically reduce your chances of causing an accident. Tips for staying awake behind the wheel include:
- Getting a good night’s sleep
- Delaying driving until you are well-rested
- Avoiding drinking alcohol before driving
- Avoiding medications that can cause drowsiness
- Driving during the hours you are normally awake
- Drinking caffeine
- Taking a short nap before driving
- Scheduling regular breaks
- Eating a quick snack
- Avoiding heavy foods before driving
- Traveling with a passenger who can take turns driving
Doing what you can to prevent drowsy driving is critical. Failure to stay awake behind the wheel can lead to devastating injuries or even death. If you feel tired, you should avoid driving.
What to Do If You Are Involved in a Drowsy Driving Accident
If you are the victim of a drowsy driving accident, you likely have serious physical and financial damages. Seeking the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney in Michigan can help you recover compensation for your injuries and other losses. Contact Jamie White and his experienced team at White Law PLLC today for a free consultation to discuss your drowsy driving accident and begin your journey to recovery.
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