Have you ever driven for a long period and suddenly realized you did not remember the last few miles? Some drivers call this phenomenon “driving on auto-pilot” especially if they are driving a familiar route. But the truth behind this lapse in concentration is a significant problem on Colorado’s roads: drowsy driving.
What is drowsy driving?
Drowsy driving is exactly what it sounds like, driving when you are fatigued. This type of dangerous behavior is not limited to falling asleep at the wheel. Drowsy driving might include behaviors such as:
- Difficulty keeping your eyes open
- Spacing out
- Sudden jerking when you catch yourself falling asleep
- Drifting out of your lane
- Missing exits or turns on familiar routes
Why is drowsy driving dangerous?
When you drive drowsy, you are impairing three important driving skills:
When you are fatigued or sleepy, you are unable to react as quickly as a driver who is alert and attentive. This could mean the difference between avoiding an obstacle and being involved in a dangerous accident.
Drowsy drivers often let their mind wander while driving or lose track of their driving responsibilities. You might forget to use turn signals or blow through a stop sign because your brain is too fatigued to pay full attention to the road.
Any distance traveled in your car will require you to make decisions behind the wheel. If you are too tired to think clearly, you might make the wrong choice when trying to decide to merge lanes or beat a yellow light.
Drowsy Driving Can Be as Dangerous as Drunk Driving
Researchers have equated drowsy driving to drunk driving regarding the hazard it creates to yourself and others around you.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a driver who has been awake for at least 18 hours is similar to driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent.
Drivers who are awake for at least 24 hours exhibit the same impairments as a driver with a BAC of 0.10 percent — legally drunk in all states.
How common is drowsy driving?
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a survey in 2013 that found drivers between the ages of 19 and 24 were most likely to admit to drowsy driving, while drivers aged 65 and older were the least likely to drive drowsy. Another study by the Foundation found an estimated 21 percent of fatal crashes and 13 percent of serious injury crashes involved a drowsy driver in 2014.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reviewed crashes from 2005 to 2009 and found drowsy driving was a factor in an average of 83,000 crashes and 37,000 injury crashes per year. On average, drowsy driving causes an average of 886 fatalities per year; in 2014, it caused 846 fatalities.
How can I prevent drowsy driving?
The first step to making sure you are not contributing to the drowsy driving problem is knowing your own body. The CDC lists drivers that have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are more likely to drive drowsy than people with normal sleeping ability.
Some people believe they can function on a little sleep as long as they have caffeine. While you can use caffeine for short-term energy, it is not a long-term solution to stop drowsy driving. The CDC suggests getting at least seven hours of sleep — and eight hours for teens — to maintain alertness while driving.
Before you get in the car, make sure you know where you are going and how long it will take.
If you have to drive more than a few hours, plan for multiple rest stops along the way to stretch and recharge your focus.
If you notice any of the signs of drowsy driving during your trip, pull over in a safe area and take a 15-20 minute nap.
For long trips, having two or more drivers helps alleviate fatigue by allowing each driver to take a shift rather than one driver doing it alone.
Where can I get help if a drowsy driver hits me?
Proving fault in an accident with a drowsy driver can be difficult. You need to be able to prove that the driver was impaired by lack of sleep or fatigue at the time of the crash.
By working with a Colorado car accident attorney from The Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya, LLC, you have the benefit of an experienced legal team to help you prove fault and claim your rightful damages.
Call 303-758-4777 to schedule a free consultation and get the answers to your questions about drowsy driving accidents.