A tired driver is a dangerous driver. Driving while you are drowsy decreases your awareness, slows your reaction time, increases aggressiveness, and impairs your judgment. You might have heard the warnings about driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Drowsy driving can impair your driving ability, just like driving drunk, and cause you to make mistakes that could injure or kill your passengers, you, or other motorists.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, studies have shown that when you are awake for longer than 20 hours, the impairment it causes is the same as that of a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration. Half of adults in the United States consistently report that they were guilty of driving drowsy and around 20 percent report they fell asleep behind the wheel the year before.
Who is Most at Risk?
When thinking about drowsy driving, you might immediately think of night shift workers and long-haul truckers as been the highest at risk for driving drowsy. But, although this group of people are indeed at risk, pretty much anybody who hasn’t gotten enough sleep is at risk and dangerous. Other people at risk include:
- People working long hours (over 60 hours a week) and shift workers
- Long-haul drivers and commercial drivers
- People with untreated and undiagnosed disorders (people with sleep apnea are at an increased risk of drowsy driving and falling asleep behind the wheel)
- People with jet lag or business travelers who spent many hours driving
Basically, anyone who has trouble sleeping can be at risk.
Warning Signs of Drowsiness
A dangerous aspect of sleep-related accidents is the fact that many drivers have no idea that they are drowsy. There are warning signs that you can look for such as your head beginning to bob, your eyes becoming heavy or begin to close, excessive yawning or disconnected or wandering thinking.
Ways to keep yourself from driving drowsy include not driving after midnight or before 6am, getting enough quality sleep, taking a break every couple of hours and having someone else drive, if possible, if they are awake.
Unfortunately, accidents will happen whether through drowsy driving or other reasons. It’s important to have sufficient auto insurance to help cover the costs associated with drowsy driving accidents. You just can’t predict if or when an accident will occur and you will want to be prepared.