Impaired driving is not limited to alcohol, drugs, or distractions such as texting. Fatigued driving can also have fatal consequences.
Driving while fatigued, known as drowsy driving, causes thousands of motor vehicle accidents in this country each year and an estimated 6,400 fatalities. Males under 25 were involved in 55 percent of drowsy driving accidents.
Drivers who work in jobs with different schedules face a greater risk of drowsy driving. These include truck drivers, physicians on call and nurses.
Having less than six hours of sleep triples the risk of drowsy driving. A tight work schedule increases that risk by 40 percent. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep seven to nine hours each night while teenage drivers should have eight to 10 hours.
The NSF conducted a recent survey of 1,012 adults which is troubling. The vast majority of respondents, 95 percent, believe that drowsy driving is risky. But 37 million drivers admitted that they drove while feeling tired in 2021. Approximately 62 percent of motorists admitted to driving when they were so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open.
Typically, drowsy drivers pay insufficient attention to traffic signals, miss exits, drift outside their traffic lane or hit rumble strips. They repeatedly yawn, rub their eyes, and have difficulty keeping their heads up.
Other signs include:
- Blinking frequently or having heavy eyelids.
- Daydreaming and having disconnected thoughts.
- Wandering eyes.
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven.
- Restlessness and being irritable over typical annoyances such as sitting in traffic.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drinking one or two cups of coffee and parking in a safe area for a short 20-minute nap increases alertness for drowsy drivers. But drivers who still feel tired should get off the road.
Having a driving companion is also recommended for long trips to look for the early warning signs of fatigued driving and to keep the driver engaged in conversation. Drowsy driving often takes place when a motorist is driving alone and runs off the road at higher speeds with no braking of evidence.
Drivers should plan to stop every 100 miles or two hours on longer trips.
Coffee has limited effect
The NHTSA also cautioned that the effects of coffee last for only a short time. Motorists may still have brief losses of consciousness that can last four to five seconds. At 55 mph, a car may travel over 100 yards with a sleeping driver during that period.
Attorneys can help victims of vehicle accidents determine whether they can file a lawsuit. They can help protect their rights in proceedings and negotiations.