We have all felt not at our best on the commute to work on a Monday morning. Maybe we haven’t had enough coffee, or we are not looking forward to the week ahead. Maybe it is just the shock of getting up early again after a lazy weekend that had a lot of lie-ins. However, did you know that driving while drowsy is putting your life at risk?
Drowsy driving is an increasing problem in the US. Drowsy driving is a dangerous combination of driving and sleepiness or fatigue. There are many reasons why this might happen, the most usual being not having had enough sleep. However, things like untreated sleep disorders, drinking alcohol, medication or shift work, can all contribute towards driver fatigue and the need to drive whilst drowsy. Drowsy driving leads to slower reaction times, less ability to pay attention to the road, and less ability to make good decisions whilst driving.
According to the CDC, a survey of 19 states and the District of Columbia showed that around 4% of drivers had fallen asleep at the wheel in the previous 30 days. That is an incredible number. More than 40% of drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point in their driving career. Around 100,000 accidents per year that are reported to the police are said to involve one or more drivers that were drowsy. And that is only the reported ones. It is estimated that the total amount of crashes that involve drowsy drivers is closer to 328,000 per year. Of those 328,000 crashes, 109,000 involved injuries to one or more parties and some 6,400 were fatal. These are all potential crashes that can be avoided by not driving drowsy.
Drowsy Driving vs Drunk Driving
Driving while drowsy can have a similar effect on the body to driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. The National Sleep council estimates that being awake for 18 hours gives you a similar driving effect to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05 (0.08 is considered being drunk behind the wheel). This rises to 0.10 after being awake for 24 hours. So, if you have ever had a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep then you shouldn’t get behind the wheel.
Pay Attention to the Warning Signs
You should know when you are beginning to get fatigued. But always keep an eye out for the warning signs that tiredness is affecting your driving. If you are yawning or blinking frequently, if you have a poor recollection of the last few miles of driving, if you miss your exit, if you drift from your lane, if you hit a rumble strip these are all signs that fatigue is affecting your driving. You should stop as soon as is safe to do so, take a 20-minute nap if you can, and/or have a strong cup of caffeinated coffee. If you are travelling with someone else, then consider switching driving for a while. And always make sure you get a full night’s sleep before a long journey.