Fatigued driving is probably familiar to every driver, especially early morning commuters and those driving late at night. While some may think that getting behind the wheel fatigued can be harmless, it is actually quite dangerous. In fact some studies suggest that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
Causes of Drowsiness
There are many risk factors associated with drowsiness, such as 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.
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.
The Dangers and Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
Boston is surrounded by major highways and interstates like the Mass Pike, Routes 128, 495, 93 and 95. It is important to be vigilant of dangerous drivers and be aware of your own driving habits. According to a study by AAA, drowsy driving accounts for 17% of all motor vehicle accidents in the United States. 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.
As with drug use or alcohol consumption, drowsiness affects 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.
Preventing Drowsy Driving
Simply turning up the radio or rolling down the window is not going 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. Above all, get the proper amount of sleep! According to the CDC adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
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.
Though driving drowsy is not illegal, it can be just as dangerous as driving intoxicated, and the ramifications 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 accident attorney to understand what rights or defenses you may have. At Altman & Altman, we have 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.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
AAA Foundation for Public Safety