Society shells out a lot of money and effort to deter drunk driving and driving while impaired. There is no doubt that driving while intoxicated dramatically increases the rate of auto accidents.
However, intoxication is not the only condition that seriously impairs a person’s ability to drive safely. More attention needs to be paid to the real dangers of drowsy driving, and to the injuries caused by car accidents.
Why Drivers Are Drowsy
It is not just long-haul truckers that get sleepy while behind the wheel. In fact, there are statistics that show nearly one-third of all drivers have driven while extremely tired.
Making matters worse, 97 percent of those drivers understand the risks of driving tired. However, it is more than just lack of sleep that causes drivers to be fatigued. Driving for extended periods without a break can cause fatigue.
Other reasons include fragmented or fractured sleeping. Several people will get the recommended hours of sleep, but because the sleep is fragmented, the proper amount of sleep is not achieved. Fragmented sleep can be the result of a sleep disorder or a physical condition.
Effects of Fatigue Are Similar to Intoxication
Drowsy driving doubles the risk of an accident behind the wheel. The effects of driving tired are just as devastating as the effects of drinking while driving. Just like alcohol, fatigue impairs your reaction time. Slower reaction times greatly decrease your performance level, especially in poor weather conditions.
It is not only your reflexes that suffer when you are tired. Extreme fatigue or drowsiness negatively impacts your ability to process information. This can hamper your ability to make quick and safe decisions, which are often needed when driving.
It can also create problems with your short-term memory. Short-term memory issues can cause a driver to miss a turn or become lost while driving. An even more dangerous consequence is forgetting there is a driver in the lane next to you, or that you are driving at all.
If you are not already convinced of how bad drowsy driving is, here are some more frightening statistics:
A motorist who has less than five hours of sleep has the same reaction time and performance capabilities of a drunk driver. Of all accidents involving vehicles, 7 percent are the result of someone driving while drowsy.
A staggering 21 percent of all fatal accidents involving a vehicle are the result of someone driving while drowsy. These kinds of statistics can no longer be ignored. Driving while you are fatigued, tired, or drowsy is a fatal decision. It is statistically the same as driving drunk.
Not Just Commercial Drivers
While it is true that there are more commercial drivers on the road that are apt to drive tired, they are not the only culprit. Interestingly enough, drivers who have children and those that work late shifts are just as likely to drive tired as commercial drivers.
Regulations have been put into place to address the dangers presented by overworked commercial drivers. There is legislation that has made it illegal for commercial drivers to drive more than a certain amount of hours without sleep. However, few laws exist to address non-commercial drivers.
Tips to Stay Awake
It is crucial to stay alert while driving. If you do not have a co-pilot to help you stay alert, chew gum, listen to music, or eat sunflower seeds. The best tip, if you feel drowsy, is to simply stop and rest, however.