How many of us have slipped behind the wheel of a car when we were not sure we had the energy to complete the trip? In America, driving while tired is becoming recognized as an impediment to safe driving. In fact, some states have made driving while drowsy a criminal offense. The problem with drowsy driving statistics is identifying evidence that sleepiness contributed to the accident. Usually, after an accident, the perpetrator is unusually alert due to the circumstances making it hard for police to detect residual evidence of sleepiness. Accidents with drowsy drivers occur unsurprisingly mostly during the nighttime hours, with most occurring after midnight. Due to human energy patterns, a smaller amount of accidents are also reported during the midafternoon hours.
Driving while sleepy is also likely to produce road accidents with more injuries and a higher death rate than other accidents. This is because of the high speed that is involved. Accidents involving tired drivers are more likely to occur on highways or roads where the speed limit exceeds 50 mph. Upon investigating these types of accidents examiners find no evidence of skid marks or brake lights, meaning that tired drivers fell asleep behind the wheel and were unable to attempt to remedy the situation.
What causes driver drowsiness?
Lack of quality sleep was the main cause of driver drowsiness. This makes the situation even more tragic because it is completely avoidable. Drivers in this instance need to manage their lifestyle to ensure that they are able to get adequate sleep. In many cases, a nighttime work shift contributed to the excessive drowsiness of the driver.
Medications were the next largest contributing factor to driver sleepiness. Many common over the counter medications are to blame for the sleep-deprived drivers. The risk increases with males, with taking more than one drug, and with the use of illegal drugs.
Untreated sleep disorders are also a factor in driver fatigue. Sleep apnea is the biggest culprit. With sleep apnea an individual stops breathing periodically throughout the sleep cycle. This results in poor quality sleep and subsequent excessive drowsiness during daytime hours.
Alcohol can also contribute toward driver drowsiness. In about twenty percent of accidents, drivers who reported being sleepy also reported consuming alcohol before the accident.
Who is the most at risk for driving while drowsy?
Many studies have consistently found that young drivers, usually between the ages of 16-29, have the highest incidence of driving while drowsy. Men are more likely to experience this than women. This is perplexing to researchers since they found that men and women reported experiencing drowsiness in fairly equal amounts.
Shift workers are the next at-risk group. Consistent nighttime work schedules create disruptions in the natural human sleep cycle.There are many things that can be done to counteract these issues. Taking a nap during the day can help immensely with reducing drowsiness at other waking times of the day. Caffeine has been found to be effective, although an overconsumption for those sensitive to caffeine may increase drowsiness. Other common remedies, like light exercise, loud music, or cold air, were not found to be effective.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Your case may be different. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured in an accident and suspect the driver was drowsy, please call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529.