In this day and age, it is not uncommon for people to go through life sleep deprived. Unfortunately, this means that there are many fatigued drivers on the road. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this is a problem that is only growing. It has become such an epidemic that the National Sleep Foundation recognizes an annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week every November.
The nationwide Drowsy Driving Prevention Week comes on the heels of multiple studies proving the hazards of fatigued driving. A significant number of car accidents are caused by drowsy driving every year. This risk is especially large in Colorado, due to the long stretches of highway and interstate. The state’s major metropolitan and rural areas are connected by long winding roads, giving Colorado one of the highest percentages of tired driving-related fatal accidents in the nation.
All this makes it absolutely imperative for Colorado drivers to fully understand the dangers of drowsy driving. We at Injury Victim Law encourage all drivers to take all possible preventative measures to keep everyone on the road safe. Truly safe driving means alert, clear-headed, and responsive driving.
Many people do not believe that drowsy driving is as serious of a problem as it is. After all, if most of us are sleep deprived every day, how bad can fatigued driving be? And if it is happening, then how often can it really be a problem?
The answer? A lot! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 25 adult drivers has reported falling asleep while driving within the last 30 days. Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes in 2013 alone. It was responsible for 44,000 injuries as well.
The NHTSA also estimated that 800 deaths were caused by drowsy driving in the year 2013. Further research suggests that this number is actually low, and that the real number was closer to 6,000 fatal crashes. AAA also found that drowsy drivers cause 16.5% of deadly traffic accidents.
Drowsy driving is dangerous regardless of whether or not a driver ends up falling asleep on the road. Drowsiness slows reaction time, which could potentially lead a driver into a car accident. Sleep deprivation can also impair drivers’ judgment, meaning drowsy drivers could have a harder time making good decisions.
In many ways, drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving. “If you think missing a few hours of sleep is no big deal and couldn’t possibly affect your ability to drive safely, think again,” warns AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. “The bottom line is that just two to three hours of sleep loss can more than quadruple your risk for a crash. That’s the same as driving drunk.”
Unfortunately, the National Sleep Foundation reports that 60% of adults in the U.S. have confessed to drowsy driving, and that about one-third of people have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. Sleep deprivation, in general, has the potential to affect your body just like alcohol does.
To back up McKinley’s previous statement, studies have shown that driving after having been awake for 18 hours straight is similar to driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.05%. Driving on 24 hours of sleep deprivation is even worse; it is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol content of around 0.10%.
Still, drunk and drowsy driving do have some differences. However, these differences do not make one any less dangerous than the other. While a drunk driver may drive slowly and still try to react, a drowsy driver may nod off at the wheel while going top speed.
If you feel too tired to drive, you will likely know it right away. Still, you may be confident in your ability to make it to your destination safely. You may think it is okay because you are only taking a short trip.
If you find yourself having trouble focusing, yawning constantly, bobbing your head, drifting from your lane, forgetting driving the last few hundred feet, missing road signs or turns, drifting into other lanes, or find your eyelids getting heavy, it may be a good idea to pull over. Take a brief nap if or buy a cup of coffee. If you can, you may even want to consider switching drivers.
Of course, it is also wise to take precautions from preventing yourself from being put in a situation where you could be driving while fatigued at all. Try to make sure you are on the road only when you are at your most alert. This may mean avoiding the roads late at night.
Certain groups of people are more at risk for drowsy driving than others. You may want to take extra care to prevent yourself from driving while fatigued if you have untreated sleep disorders, work shifts, and/or are taking any medication that may make you drowsy. Young men in their teens, 20s, and 30s are also most at risk for drowsy driving accidents between 11:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.
The number one thing you can do to prevent drowsy driving accidents is obvious: make sure you are always well-rested before you get behind the wheel. That means getting a full night’s sleep and to avoid driving late at night, as we mentioned above.
You may also want to avoid driving alone, especially if you are taking a long trip. A passenger may be able to help keep you awake. It is even more ideal if this passenger is someone who can take over driving for you if necessary.
If you have been involved in a drowsy driving-related auto accident, we at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced nationwide car accident attorneys. Let us fight for you.