Everyone seems so tired these days. In a world that does not stop, rest can be hard to come by. Unfortunately, drowsy driving has become a major problem on U.S. roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that there were 697 deaths from drowsy driving-related crashes in 2019 alone. Far more have been injured in drowsy driving crashes. Precise numbers of drowsy driving crashes, and resulting injuries and fatalities, have, however, proved difficult to pin down. Unlike drunk driving, where BAC can be ascertained by a blood test or breathalyzer test, it is difficult to prove a crash was the result of drowsy driving. As of now, crash investigators can only look for clues that drowsy driving contributed to a crash. These clues, however, can be elusive and not conclusive. NHTSA numbers rely on police and hospital reports to help determine drowsy driving crash numbers.
Drowsy Driving Dangers
People are working longer hours, commuting farther, and sleeping less than a well-rested body requires. Unfortunately, the predominant lifestyle seems to lend itself to high incidences of drowsy driving. Fatigue has been a growing problem among Americans. It has taken a toll on our health and safety, not to mention quality of life. When it comes to driving, fatigue has been proven to impair cognition and restrict performance. In addition to a dangerous driving condition, fatigue can have long-term health consequences and increase the likelihood of other accidents, such as those occurring in the workplace.
Society needs to recognize the dangers associated with fatigue and drowsy driving. Only then can we begin shifting our societal expectations and recognize that drowsy driving should not be acceptable. Right now, most people likely view drowsy driving as simply a necessity to get through the day. They do not fully recognize the danger they are posing to themselves and others.
Drowsy driving crashes most often occur in the late night to early morning hours between midnight and 6 am. Late afternoon is also a common time for drowsy driving crashes. These are times of the day when the body’s circadian rhythm, the internal clock regulating our sleep, take dips. Furthermore, these crashes often involve a single driver with no passengers. The driver often runs off the road at a high rate of speed without braking. Most commonly, drowsy driving crashes happen on rural roads as well as highways.
Drowsy driving may be dangerous, but it is preventable. We could all benefit from paying more attention to our sleeping habits. Getting enough sleep each day will help you stay healthy as well as stay safe on the road. Medical experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep each night. You can also prevent drowsy driving by avoiding the consumption of alcohol before driving. Any alcohol consumption can exacerbate sleepiness increasing drowsiness and driver impairment.
You can also prevent drowsy driving by double-checking your medication. Whether prescription or over the counter, medication can often have drowsiness as a side effect. Avoiding driving during peak drowsy periods can also help avoid the dangers of drowsy driving. Peak drowsy periods are, again, midnight to 6 am and late afternoon.