When it comes to making poor decisions behind the wheel, drunk driving and distracted driving get the bulk of the attention, but numbers show drivers impaired by fatigue account for one in every six deadly car crashes. However, unlike drunk driving where you can easily test a driver’s blood alcohol level, proving someone was sleep deprived at the time of an accident is exceedingly difficult.
As of now, New Jersey is the only state in the country with any sort of legislation prohibiting sleep deprived drivers from getting on the road. In New Jersey, any driver who hasn’t slept in 24 hours is considered to be driving recklessly. Recently, drowsy driving has started getting more attention, with Massachusetts, Oregon, New York, and Texas all considering legislation to discourage severely fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these bills have either stalled or been shot down.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is implicated in as many as 100,000 accidents each year. Those accidents account for approximately 71,000 injuries and 1,500 fatalities.
Over the past few years, as drowsy driving has begun getting more attention, public awareness campaigns have started sprouting up to warn people about the potential safety hazards. The following campaign from ThaiHealth’s “Don’t Drive Sleepy Project” does a fantastic job of capturing the dangers of drowsy driving with an alarmingly clever visual.
Obviously it’s on each individual driver to make good decisions and shy away from operating a vehicle if they’re even remotely uncertain about their ability to remain alert and attentive. The following quick tips can help drivers remain safe and reduce the potential of accidentally harming someone else:
1) When in doubt, get off the road
If you need the windows rolled down, music cranked up, and a cup of coffee just to stay awake, chances are you shouldn’t be driving in the first place. Take a break and get off the road as soon as you can.
2) Know the warning signs
Drifting out of your lane, struggling to keep your eyes open, zoning out, or inadvertently tailgating are all warning signs that you might be too tired to drive safely. Try to get off the road, or if you have a passenger in the car, ask if they can drive for a while.
3) Use public transportation
Too exhausted to drive? Use public transportation instead. It’s cheap and will allow you to grab some much needed rest while being safely navigated to your destination.
4) Have a designated driver or drive in shifts
If you know you’re going to be fatigued, getting someone else to drive you might be the best option. And, in the case of long road trips, driving in shifts is considerably safer than powering through for a few more hours when you can feel yourself starting to get tired.
5) Take drug warnings seriously
There’s a reason some medicines say not to drive or operate heavy machinery; it’s because you probably aren’t going to be your usual fully capable self. Take these warnings seriously, and when in doubt, don’t drive.
Photo credit: “Sleepiness is stronger than you. ThaiHealth. Don’t Drive Sleepy Project.”
What is driver fatigue and what impact does it have?
As a personal injury law firm in California, GJEL Accident Attorneys sees the devastating effects of driver fatigue on a regular basis. Driver fatigue is believed to be a factor in a significant portion of all motor vehicle crashes in the United States, with estimates ranging from 20-30%. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving leads to approximately 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal injuries each year.
These statistics are not just numbers – they represent real people who have suffered real harm due to the hazardous effects of driver fatigue. A recent survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60% of adult drivers have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, with 37% of adult drivers admitting to having fallen asleep at the wheel. The survey also found that men are more likely to drive drowsy than women, with 68% of men reporting having driven while feeling drowsy compared to 57% of women.
These findings highlight the importance of fatigue management and the need to address the risk posed by drowsy drivers. The effects of driver fatigue can be just as detrimental to road safety as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is essential that drivers recognize the signs of fatigue, such as feeling tired, sleepy, exhausted, sluggish, and experiencing difficulty staying awake, and take steps to address the issue before getting behind the wheel. This may include getting adequate sleep, avoiding driving during the hours when one is typically sleepy, and taking breaks to rest if feeling drowsy while driving.