Drowsy driving is a serious issue that is often overlooked by many drivers. When a driver is feeling sleepy, it can impair their ability to drive safely and increase the risk of accidents.
Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving or distracted driving. When a driver is fatigued, their reaction time is slowed, and they may not be able to make quick decisions or avoid hazards on the road. This can lead to accidents that can result in serious injury or death.
Drowsy driving can be defined as the operation of a vehicle while the driver is fatigued, tired, or sleepy. In this article, we will discuss the dangers of drowsy driving, the effects of drowsiness on driving, factors contributing to drowsy driving, consequences of drowsy driving, and prevention strategies.
What Are The Effects of Drowsiness on Driving?
Drowsiness can have several negative effects on driving performance, including impaired cognitive functioning, slow reaction time, poor decision making, impaired vision, and decreased alertness. When a driver is feeling drowsy, their ability to process information and make decisions is significantly reduced. This can lead to slower reaction times and poor decision making, increasing the risk of accidents.
Drowsiness can also impair vision, making it difficult to see clearly and respond to changes in traffic conditions. Additionally, drowsiness can lead to decreased alertness, causing drivers to miss important signs and signals on the road. Here is a full list of things we have seen drowsy driving cause.
- Drowsiness can cause a decrease in reaction time, which can make it difficult for a driver to respond to unexpected events on the road.
- Fatigue can lead to a decrease in overall cognitive function, which can cause a driver to make poor decisions or struggle with tasks such as staying in their lane or maintaining a safe speed.
- Drivers who are fatigued may experience microsleeps, which are brief periods of sleep lasting only a few seconds. During a microsleep, a driver can lose control of their vehicle, putting themselves and others at risk.
- Drowsiness can cause a driver to have difficulty focusing, which can make it difficult to pay attention to road signs, other drivers, and hazards on the road.
- Drivers who are fatigued may have slower reflexes and a decreased ability to judge distances, which can make it difficult to stop in time to avoid a collision.
- Fatigue can impair a driver’s ability to make good decisions, which can lead to poor judgment in critical situations such as merging onto a highway or navigating through construction zones.
- Drowsiness can cause a driver to become irritable or anxious, which can lead to aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding, tailgating, and cutting off other drivers.
- Drivers who are fatigued may experience impaired vision or blurred vision, which can make it difficult to see road signs, other vehicles, or hazards on the road.
- Fatigue can also cause a driver to experience lapses in memory or attention, which can lead to forgetfulness and poor decision-making while driving.
Factors Contributing to Drowsy Driving
Several factors can contribute to drowsy driving, including lack of sleep, sleep disorders, medications, alcohol, and driving patterns. Lack of sleep is the most common cause of drowsy driving. Drivers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to feel tired and fatigued while driving.
Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can also contribute to drowsy driving. Sleep apnea can cause interrupted breathing during sleep, leading to poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Certain medications can also contribute to drowsy driving. Medications that cause drowsiness or fatigue, such as sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and antihistamines, can impair driving performance.
Alcohol is another contributing factor to drowsy driving. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause drowsiness and impair driving performance.
Finally, driving patterns can contribute to drowsy driving. Long periods of driving without breaks can lead to fatigue and drowsiness.
Nearly 1/3 of drivers have admitted to driving drowsy
Although 96 percent of drivers said drowsy driving is unacceptable, nearly a third admitted to doing so in the past month.
Further, the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 Sleep in America poll found that nearly one in ten 16-45 year old drivers report driving drowsy once or twice a week.
Driving while fighting sleep invites a particularly frightening scenario in which a 1,500 hunk of steel is being completely unmanned. AAA estimates that nearly one in six traffic fatalities and one in eight accidents that result in injuries requiring hospitalization involve a drowsy driver.
David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, provides this aptly terrifying image: “Many don’t realize that driving while drowsy is very dangerous. If you’re so tired that you can hardly keep your eyes open, you could fall asleep for just a few seconds and not realize it. If that happens at 65 miles an hour, you could drive the length of a football field in an unconscious state.”
One of the leading causes of brain injuries is car accidents. When drowsy driving is involved car accidents tend to be severe or even fatal.
How to prevent driving while tired
AAA offers the following advice: Get plenty of sleep in advance of road trips, take regular (2 hour) breaks, make liberal use of caffeine if necessary, and bring someone who can keep you company (and awake).
All great, common sense pieces of advice, but sometimes common sense just isn’t enough to control human behavior. It’s a concept implicit in our terming of auto-collisions as “accidents.” If we acknowledge that humans are prone to error, we should do something systemically to mitigate those dangerous faults.
Technological Advances are Helping Too
Fortunately, technological advances and their increasingly widespread application may hold a simple solution. Beginning around 2006, driver monitoring systems that track drifting between lanes and driver eye movement have been developed to rouse drivers when they exhibit signs of sleepiness.
Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo, GM, BMW, Hyundai, Renault Trucks and many others all employ some form of the safety systems.
In addition to being a feature in many new cars and an aftermarket safety enhancement, researchers are working to ascertain the effectiveness of driver monitoring technology in truckers, a demographic disproportionately exposed to the risks of drowsy driving.
While some drivers may object to intrusive systems that provide unnecessary alerts, laser optic technology that senses proximity to and approaching speed of other vehicles certainly has the potential to greatly reduce accidents that come in a moment of distraction, or drowsiness.
There are also concerns about the cost of the system, despite evidence illustrating the dangers of sleepy drivers. A 2009 government study (of trucking systems) addressed those issues, and found that even from a purely economic standpoint, the yearly cost of crashes would decrease in amounts more than sufficient to cover the cost of the technology.
Our understanding of the benefits of driver and vehicle monitoring systems increases and the cost of the technology is decreasing. Hopefully, we’ll soon be able to put drowsy driving concerns to bed.