Why You Should Never Drive When You’re Tired
According to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over 97% of drivers say they disapprove of drowsy driving. However, 24% of survey respondents admitted to driving while tired in the previous 30 days!
The National Safety Council estimates that drowsy driving causes nearly 328,000 accidents annually. Out of those 328,000 accidents, more than 100,000 tired driving accidents caused injuries, and 6,400 resulted in a death.
If a fatigued driver caused your accident and injuries, work with an attorney from Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers to discuss your options going forward. We can assess the circumstances of your case to determine if drowsy driving caused the accident and help you seek compensation for your injuries and other losses.
Fatigue can impair brain function similarly to alcohol consumption. A study found that staying awake for upwards of 18 hours without sleep is comparable to having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .05%. To put that into context, if you woke up at 6 a.m. and went to bed at midnight—something many of us have done—that would be 18 hours awake. Having no sleep for 24 hours causes the same impairment as having a BAC of 0.10%, well over the legal limit.
Fatigue impairs a driver’s cognitive ability, reaction time, and spatial awareness. A tired driver will be more likely to make poor decisions, will have trouble reacting in time to avoid an accident, and may swerve in or out of lanes. In fact, drowsy driving may be even more dangerous than drunk driving! In one study, people with moderate sleep deprivation performed 50% worse on accuracy and response time tests than those with a BAC of .05%.
Tired driving also affects the driver’s ability to perceive road hazards. Fatigue can cause droopy eyelids and puffy, itchy, or bloodshot eyes, leading to blurred vision. All these factors increase the chances of a collision.
Drivers must be able to recognize when they are too tired to drive. Some warning signs include yawning, rapid blinking, missing an exit, or lack of awareness. If you experience any of these signs, pull over and find a safe place to rest until you feel more focused and alert.
The hypothalamus, the portion of the brain responsible for inducing yawns, reacts to chemical messengers like dopamine and adrenocorticotropic hormone. Some of these chemicals surge at night or when you usually sleep, signaling your body that it is time for bed.
Excessive blinking occurs when your eyelids feel heavy with fatigue. A 2012 study showed that blinking gives the brain a momentary break from focus, and the more tired you become, the more often you blink.
The study also showed the area of the brain activated during blinking causes a decline in cognitive performance and attention. If you notice you’re blinking more than usual, it’s best to pull over and get some rest before driving further.
Missing an exit or turn suggests inattentiveness, which fatigue or drowsiness can cause. If you miss exits on the highway or forget directions to places you’ve driven to many times, it may be time for a break or to stop driving.
When you’re tired, focusing on what’s happening around you is more challenging. Fatigue has a negative impact on working memory and can cause you to feel like you are driving in a daze or on autopilot. Pull over if you struggle to remember how you arrived at your current location or your actions over the last several minutes.
If you drive drowsy, you may nod off at the wheel and begin drifting off course. You may veer into the oncoming lanes of traffic or off the road towards the shoulder. If you hit the rumble strips between lanes or on the shoulder, find a safe place to pull off the road as soon as possible and rest. States install these strips to help prevent accidents for tired or inattentive drivers.
Preventing driver fatigue is an integral part of keeping the roads safe. You may use temporary measures to bring back alertness, such as drinking a caffeinated beverage, turning on loud music, or blasting cold air to help keep you awake.
However, the best way to prevent driver fatigue is to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. If you feel too tired to drive before you plan to leave, postpone your trip or make other transportation arrangements to avoid causing an accident.
Some people face a higher risk of fatigued driving. Generally, those who work irregular hours or night shifts have more difficulty getting enough regular sleep at night. Also, people with certain health conditions or who take medications like antidepressants or antihistamines may feel tired while driving.
Those most at risk for fatigued driving include:
- Shift workers
- Commercial drivers
- People with sleep disorders
- Those who take drowsy-causing medications
- Fatigue-causing chronic conditions like diabetes or autoimmune diseases
If you are at higher risk of drowsy driving, take extra precautions when getting behind the wheel to prevent an accident.
The Green Bay car accident attorneys at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers understand that drowsy driving contributes to far more accidents than police reports reflect. If you were involved in an accident caused by a tired driver, we can help you seek compensation.
We can prove negligence by reconstructing the accident, investigating the driver’s previous actions, and conducting witness interviews. Our goal is to help you receive the maximum damages for your injuries.
Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation today so you can get started on rebuilding your life after an accident.