Maybe you have an infant and are sleep-deprived. Perhaps you have been working too much and are driving home at late hours. Maybe you’re on a new medication that makes the afternoon slump feel 10 times worse than usual. Whatever is causing you to get drowsy at times of day when you will be behind the wheel of your vehicle needs to be remedied sooner rather than later. A car crash could be the result if you don’t take action against your own drowsy driving.
The Price of Drowsy Driving
Sleep is one of the biggest necessities that gets sacrificed in our busy lifestyles. Job, kids, exercise, socializing – these things often take precedence over self-care. And the result of not enough sleep can lead to tragic consequences on the road.
Almost 84 million sleep-deprived Americans are getting behind the wheel every day, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) entitled Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do. Drowsy driving-related car crashes in 2015 accounted for an estimated 5,000 deaths.
Exhausted drivers have become such a threat on highways that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has expanded its definition of impaired driving to include not only drunk, distracted, and drugged drivers, but also drowsy drivers. An NHTSA estimate revealed that fatigue-related fatal and injury crashes cost society a mind-blowing $109 billion, not including property damage.
Recognizing Drowsy Driving
In 2015, motor vehicle deaths were up 7.7 percent nationwide. Drowsy driving is clearly contributing to this problem, with 2 to 20 percent of all traffic fatalities caused by drowsy driving. The percentage is so dramatically spread out, however, because the extent of the problem is not fully known. “There are challenges associated with both measuring and combating drowsy driving,” said Jonathan Adkins, GHSA executive director. “Law enforcement lack protocols and training to help officers recognize drowsy driving at roadside. And if a crash occurs, the drowsy driver may not report the cause due to concerns about monetary and other penalties.”
The GHSA report highlights that recognizing the warning signs of drowsiness can help drivers take appropriate action and get off of the highway before they do risk getting into a traffic accident. It’s up to every driver to be responsible enough to pull over if they find themselves having difficulty focusing, daydreaming, yawning, blinking frequently, or suffering with heavy eyelids. Missing exits or traffic signs or having no recollection of the last few miles you’ve driven are also serious signs of drowsy driving.
Awareness Can Help Combat Drowsy Driving
As with the majority of traffic incidents, there are some groups of people who are at greater risk for drowsy driving. “Teens and young adults are involved in more than half of all drowsy driving crashes annually,” points out Adkins. “People who work nights or long or irregular shifts are also more likely to get behind the wheel when they are too tired to drive, along with the estimated 40 million Americans who suffer from a sleep disorder.”
If we view sleep as the restorative and life-sustaining activity that it is – just as critical as eating well and exercising, if not more critical – that is a step in the right direction. Without proper sleep, we are unable to react quickly and our mental and physical health suffers.
David Christensen is an auto accident attorney and a leading advocate against distracted driving. He has helped hundreds of victims who have been hurt or injured as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Christensen Law is located in Southfield, Michigan.