Drowsy driving is an issue that impacts people across the county. In a study done by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, there are at least 100,000 crashes due to this each year, contributing to thousands of accidents, injuries, and deaths. The term drowsy driving is used to describe when a driver operates their car when they are feeling tired or fatigued. A driver’s alertness is reduced, reaction time is slowed, and overall decision making can be compromised leading to potentially dangerous outcomes.
What is the impact of drowsy or fatigued driving?
Drowsy driving often mimics some of the same symptoms that occur for people who operate vehicles who are under the influence. When a driver is drowsy, their reaction times can be delayed, they may briefly fall asleep, and they may swerve into other lanes, medians or off the road. This can cause catastrophic injuries for the driver, their passengers, other drivers around them, and pedestrians. Knowing the signs of drowsy driving can help drivers make safe decisions for themselves and others on the road.
Who is most impacted by drowsy or fatigued driving?
In general, all drivers may be at risk for drowsy driving; however, there are some groups that are at a higher risk than others. This is often attributed to medical disorders, age, and careers. This can include but is not limited to:
- People who work in industries that require long periods of operating a vehicle, such as commercial truck drivers or bus drivers.
- People who have sleep disorders that aren’t properly diagnosed or treated, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy.
- People who are not able to get enough sleep to be rested each night.
- People who take certain medications that have side effects that may cause drowsiness.
- People who consume alcohol or take narcotics.
- New drivers and individuals under the age of 25.
If you fall into any of the above groups, you should take extra precautions before operating a car to ensure that you are well rested. If you have a medical condition that may cause drowsiness, you should also consider discussing this with your physician before operating a car.
What are some of the potential warning signs of drowsy driving?
Drowsy driving most often occurs late at night, between the hours of 12 – 6 am. With that said, drowsy driving can also occur at other times as well, so drivers and passengers should be aware of the warning signs. Some common drowsy driving signs include:
- Frequently yawning or blinking
- Missing traffic signs or exits
- Having trouble keeping your head up or eyes open
- Driving over the rumble strip on the shoulder of the road
- Drifting from your lane
- Feeling restless
- Having trouble focusing on the road and other things around you
- Having difficulty maintaining your rate of speed
What should I do if I experience any of the warning signs you mentioned?
If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed above, you may be experiencing driving drowsy and should pull your car over immediately to a safe place to stop and rest. If there is a passenger in your car who is able to drive and is not experiencing these symptoms, then you may consider having that individual take over as driver so you can rest. If you continue to drive under fatigued conditions, you may put yourself and others at risk of being injured in an accident. This can lead to severe consequences, including but not limited to, catastrophic injuries or death.
How can I avoid the potential of driving drowsy?
There are many different ways to be rested to try to combat and avoid driving your car while fatigued. Some common suggestions include:
- Getting 7 or more hours of sleep each night to ensure you are well rested. If you have been awake for long periods of time, avoid driving and instead rest.
- Carefully reviewing side effect warnings on your medication labels to determine if certain medications may lead to drowsiness. In addition, avoiding drinking alcohol or narcotics while taking these medications, which can contribute to increasing the effects of your medications causing drowsiness.
- Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and creating other healthy, routing sleeping habits.
- Seeing your doctor to review your symptoms if you find yourself drowsy often – in some instances, you may have an undiagnosed sleeping disorder that needs medical attention.
- If you work in an industry that requires you to operate a vehicle for long periods of time, be sure that you take rest breaks every few hours on your trip or a set number of miles along the drive to then take a break.
- Ensuring that new drivers and drivers under the age of 25 receive adequate driving training and are also educated to recognize the symptoms of drowsy driving.
By taking the above precautions, you can help reduce the potential of operating your car while fatigued, protecting yourself and others around you.
What if I have been injured in an accident by a drowsy driver?
Proving that a driver was operating a car while fatigued at the time of an accident can be challenging. Under Massachusetts modified comparative negligence, you must prove that you are less than 51% at fault in order to seek compensation for your injuries. An experienced member of our team can review the details of your case and may be able to help prove another driver’s negligence so you can receive the damages that you deserve. Contact our experienced legal team for a free legal consultation to discuss your case, and how we may be able to support you. We are available 24/7, toll free at 800.481.6199.