For many people, driving while tired is a way of life. Whether it is a demanding work schedule or an early class schedule, drivers are used to drowsy driving. In fact, numerous personal events such as financial stress, a new baby or family trouble can also contribute to lack of sleep and fatigue. Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as any distraction or impairment.
The CDC has identified four main causes for drowsy driving: untreated sleep disorders, medication, alcohol use and shift work. While drowsy driving might seem on the surface to be a minor issue, a long study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conservatively estimated several frightening statistics. Over a four-year span:
- Drowsy driving was responsible for an average of 83,000 motor vehicle crashes across the nation.
- Of these, an annual average of 37,000 crashes were serious enough to result in required medical attention.
- During the span of the study, there were an average of 886 fatal crashes each year attributed to drowsy driving.
The CDC has run surveys in 29 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In these surveys, approximately 1 out of every 25 adult respondents admitted to falling asleep while driving sometime in the 30 days prior to the survey.
What are the signs of drowsy driving?
Individuals who share the roads with drowsy drivers are at risk for serious accidents and catastrophic injuries. Outside of visibly seeing another driver continuously yawning while behind the wheel, some warning signs are similar to those of distracted or impaired driving, including:
- Drifting within the lane markers
- Drifting into other lanes or oncoming traffic
- Drifting across boundary markers into the “rumble strip”
- Sudden lane changes to an exit or an intersection turn lane
- Inconsistent speeds or follow distance
Now that the days are shorter and sunlight is at a premium, Midwestern drivers must battle the psychological impact of driving in the dark. Coupled with other factors such as lack of sleep or strong medication, this can easily become fatigued driving. Drowsy driving can result in serious injuries to vehicle occupants or pedestrians. Severe collisions can result in fatality.