Drowsy driving is a serious problem, and one that continues to be on the rise in the United States. To demonstrate this problem, Clayton Morris from Fox and Friends acted as the test subject in a controlled driving experiment conducted at Virginia Tech last week.
During the experiment Morris was asked to drive with a team of researchers after he had stayed awake for a full 24 hours. The car Morris drove was specially designed to track his eye movements and head positioning. After less than 20 minutes driving on the road, Morris showed trouble keeping his speed above 35 mph, and over the course of about 1 hour, the research team recorded 24 instances when Morris showed decreased driving ability. The test serves as a prime example of how dangerous drowsy driving is and how greatly driving fatigued can impact driving ability.
There are a multitude of risk factors that cause drowsiness, including chronic sleepiness caused by frequent lack of sleep, acute sleep loss, and work shifts. A variety of circumstances can account for acute sleep loss like taking care of children, vacations, short-term work demands, and social events. Irregular work schedules, late night or overtime shifts may throw off a person’s internal clock and lead to increased sleepiness. The amount of time a person spends behind the wheel can also contribute to their level of fatigued. Tractor-trailer drivers, for example, often experience fatigue because of the many hours they spend on the road. But a lack of sleep is not the only reason for drowsiness. Potent medications like sedatives, antidepressants or antihistamines used to treat allergies and colds, and even alcohol consumption can influence levels of tiredness.
It is incredibly important to be vigilant of dangerous drivers and be aware of your own driving habits, especially in Massachusetts where traffic is now at an all-time high and Boston is surrounded by major roadways. According to the NHTSA, drowsy driving accounts for more than 100,000 motor vehicle accidents per year; which translates to 40,000 injuries and 10,000 deaths annually. Unlike drunk driving accidents, where a driver’s blood alcohol content can be measured, there is no objective way to measure how tired a person is.
Drowsy driving has been deemed just as dangerous as drunk driving, as serious fatigue has been shown to affect a person’s judgment, reaction time, awareness, and their alertness. Common indicators of drowsiness are frequent yawning or blinking, difficulty remembering the last few miles driven, missing an exit, drifting between lanes, and driving over the rumble strip.
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving
Turning up the radio or rolling down the window for fresh air, is not a solution to keep you awake. If you feel drowsy, pull over to the side of the road or into a designated rest area and take a break. If you are traveling with other passengers, have someone else take the wheel. Taking the proper safety measures, as frustrating as it may seem at the time, can save your life and others’. Pulling over to the side of the road, calling a cab, and picking up your car the next morning might be the best decision you ever make.
While driving drowsy is not illegal, it can be just as dangerous as driving intoxicated, and the consequences of driving fatigued can be life altering. Whether you’re a victim or the responsible party in the accident, it is generally in your best interest to speak to an experienced Massachusetts Car Accident Attorney to understand what rights or defenses you may have.
At the law offices of Altman & Altman, our team of lawyers has over 40 years of experience in personal injury law and criminal defense, and our staff is available around the clock to assist you with any questions about your case.