How to Prevent Drowsy Driving

By Peter DePaolis

Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunken driving. Sadly, it occurs more often than it should, and it is more likely to be under-reported than drunken driving. After all, a motorist does not have to admit that he or she fell asleep at the wheel – while their intoxication is more obvious.

Regardless, drowsy driving is becoming a serious threat to the health and safety of those on the roads, and drivers must be more aware of their attention and how being too fatigued affects their ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Eye Opening Statistics to Know about Drowsy Driving

The average person does not get enough sleep at night. In fact, in the latest poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 41 percent of respondents said they slept 6 to 7 hours, while only 8.21 percent said they received the recommended 8 hours or more.

Worse, a 2005 study estimated that 168 million drivers admitted to feeling drowsy while driving over the past year, and one-third of those surveyed admitted to falling asleep while behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 100,000 accidents were the result of drowsy drivers, and these results included 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $1.25 billion in losses.

Police officers cannot determine if a motorist was fatigued at the time because there is no test to do so as there is with drunken driving. Furthermore, state reporting practices are very inconsistent, and some states do not include drowsiness as an option on crash reports–ensuring that the numbers are highly inaccurate.

How Drowsy Driving Affects You Behind the Wheel

You might be a little tired or even yawn in the morning, but that fatigue does much more than you realize behind the wheel. In fact, when you are fatigued, the following could occur:

  • Lapses in Attention–When you are tired, you suffer from lapses in attention. While it might seem like a few seconds, all it takes is a few seconds for a vehicle to stop in front of you, a child to run into the street, or a light to turn red. Those few seconds make a dramatic difference on the road.
  • Increased Stress–Lack of sleep promotes stress. When you are tired, your body cannot handle stress as well as it would while rested. Therefore, traffic delays, accidents, and even erratic drivers can stress you out more than they would have you slept the night before.
  • Speeding–When you are tired, you might drive faster to get home or to your destination.

Do Your Part–Prevent Fatigued Driving

Anyone can drive drowsy, but those who are shift workers or those working overnight are more likely to be fatigued on the road. If you notice that you are tired, such as moving out of your lane, not remembering the last few feet of driving, or intermittently dozing off, pull over.

Do your best to get adequate sleep each night too. The recommended amount of sleep each night depends on age. Per the National Sleep Foundation, younger adults ages 18 to 25 years need 7 to 9 hours per night, while an adult age 26 to 64 years needs 7 to 9, and lastly an adult over the age of 65 years needs 7 to 8 hours each night.

Injured by a Fatigued Driver? You May Have a Case

Fatigued driving is not an excuse for causing an accident. If a fatigued driver causes a serious accident and you suffer catastrophic injuries as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. To explore your options, speak with a personal injury advocate from Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP. We have three office locations on the East Coast, and you can connect with an attorney by filling out an online contact form.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.