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Wake up call: The dangers of drowsy driving

On Behalf of | May 21, 2024 | Car Accidents |

Imagine you’re behind the wheel. It’s’ been a long day, and you can feel the weight of your eyelids growing heavy. This scenario is more common—and more dangerous—than you might think.

How drowsiness affects driving abilities

Drowsy driving might seem harmless compared to driving under the influence of alcohol or texting while driving, but its effects can be just as catastrophic. Sleepiness can lead to:

  • Slowed reaction times: Just like alcohol, fatigue slows your reflexes. A drowsy driver may not brake quickly enough to prevent an accident.
  • Impaired judgment: When tired, your ability to make quick decisions can suffer, which is critical when driving.
  • Reduced attention: Fatigue can lead to lapses in concentration, making it easy to miss exits, signals, or even the presence of other vehicles.

Driving while tired is dangerous. The scary part is that anyone can be a victim of a fatigued driver, especially here in West Virginia, where many of us have long commutes and work demanding jobs.

How common is sleepy driving?

The prevalence of fatigued driving might surprise you. Statistics show that nearly 1 in 25 drivers have fallen asleep while driving, and drowsiness contributed to about 328,000 crashes annually. Several factors contribute to this phenomenon:

  • Shift work: Many West Virginians work non-traditional hours, disrupting natural sleep patterns.
  • Long workdays: Twelve-hour shifts are standard in many industries, leading to exhaustion.
  • Poor sleep quality: Stress, medical conditions and lifestyle can reduce sleep quality, leaving drivers tired even after a full night’s rest.
  • Road hypnosis: The repetitive nature of driving, especially on long, rural highways, can lull drivers into a trance-like state.

These factors are a reality for many of us, making drowsy driving an issue that hits close to home.

Awareness is the first step to safety

Fatigued driving is a very real risk, not just to the sleepy driver but to everyone on the road.

It is our responsibility to ensure we’re alert and aware of the dangers of driving while fatigued. Recognizing the signs of drowsiness—such as frequent yawning, heavy eyelids, and drifting from your lane—is crucial before it’s’ too late. If you notice these symptoms, pull over and rest. And if you spot other drivers exhibiting these symptoms, steer clear and stay safe.