When people think of dangerous driving behaviors, reckless driving, drunk driving and distracted driving are usually the first few that come to mind. Nearly every state has laws against these three with punishments ranging from small fines to lengthy jail sentences for offending drivers. But one problematic behavior that is often overlooked is drowsy driving.
At one time or another, nearly every adult has driven while being tired or fatigued. Amidst the hustle and bustle of modern society, people often fail to get enough sleep, but they still need to get where they are going. And since there is no law that penalizes someone for drowsy driving, many people do not think it is all that big a deal to drive if they are fatigued or getting sleepy.
The truth is that drowsy driving very dangerous for motorists who engage in this behavior and those they share the roadways with, even if the driver does not fall asleep at the wheel.
Driving while drowsy or fatigued slows reaction times and makes it more difficult to react in time to avoid an adverse event on the road. Driving in this condition also limits a motorist’s peripheral vision as they must use most or all of their facilities just to keep their eyes open. This can cause the driver to miss important details, such as a pedestrian crossing the road in front of them.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- Approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes each year are primarily caused by drowsy driving.
- These crashes result in more than 1,500 deaths annually.
- Drowsy driving accidents cause more than 70,000 injuries every year, resulting in $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
Keep in mind that these are officially reported numbers, but a lot of motorists who are involved in auto accidents do not admit that they were sleepy or fatigued because they do not want to be blamed for the crash. For this reason, the actual number of drowsy driving-related crashes is probably significantly higher what is being reported.
Who is most likely to drive while drowsy?
A survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that nearly half of all American adults – 45% – have driven a vehicle while struggling to keep their eyes opened and focused on the road. As you might guess, individuals who do not get enough sleep are most at risk for drowsy driving, but there are several groups wherein driving while drowsy or fatigued is more likely to happen:
- Shift workers, in particular, those who work long and overnight hours
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
- Drivers who use medications that can cause drowsiness
- Travelers who travel frequently into different time zones
- Commercial drivers such as bus drivers, tow truck drivers, delivery drivers and over-the-road truckers
Long-haul big rig truck drivers are one of the highest risk groups for drowsy driving, because many of them fit into most if not all of the above-mentioned categories.
Warning signs of drowsiness and fatigue
As mentioned earlier, nearly everyone has driven while drowsy or fatigued at some point in their adult lives, and almost half of Americans are willing to admit to it when surveyed. Being able to recognize the warning signs that you are getting too tired to drive safely can help prevent disastrous consequences from occurring.
Here are some warning signs to look out for when you are driving:
- Heavy eyelids and frequent to constant blinking
- Frequent to constant yawning
- Blurred vision and difficulty keeping your eyes focused on the road
- Difficulty keeping your head up
- Difficulty maintaining your speed
- Difficulty remembering the last few miles you have driven
- Missing a turn that you were supposed to take
- Feeling restless and irritable
- Weaving out of your lane or straddling the center line or shoulder
If you notice any of these signs, it is time to stop somewhere and switch drivers if you have another driver in the car. Or if you are the only driver, just pull into a rest stop or truck stop and get some rest.
Injured in a drowsy driving accident in West Virginia? Contact a seasoned car accident attorney.
By getting enough sleep before you drive and getting off the road when you detect warning signs of drowsy driving, you can significantly reduce the chances of ending up in a crash. Unfortunately, you cannot control the actions of others who might drive irresponsibly, so accidents are still a possibility.
If you or someone close to suffered injury in an auto accident in West Virginia, The Masters Law Firm is ready to go to work for you. To get started, call our office today at 304-371-7894 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment with a member of our legal team.