Drowsy driving is one of the greatest dangers on America’s roads. While only 25% of our driving takes place at night, the National Safety Council reports that half of all traffic fatalities happen at night. Driving while drowsy puts you and other people at risk; and driving at night can actually make fatigue even worse. Learn more about the dangers of sleepy driving and how to protect yourself.
The Dangers of Nighttime Driving
The human body naturally follows a set of circadian rhythms. As it gets darker outside, the body prepares to sleep by secreting melatonin, dropping its body temperature, and slowing down digestive processes. Trying to undertake mentally draining tasks like driving during this time is often counterproductive. Even those who are on a schedule that requires them to sleep during the day and stay awake through the night experience the decreased productivity that comes with nightfall. When you drive at night, you may experience a slower reaction time, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
Effects of Drowsy Driving
Driving while tired can be extremely dangerous, particularly if you do it on a regular basis. The National Sleep Foundation found that driving after being awake for 18 hours is similar to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05. Being awake for 24 hours produces effects similar to having a blood alcohol level of 0.1. Driving while drowsy can cause:
- Daydreaming, which makes it difficult to remember the speed limit, where you are on your drive, or respond appropriately to obstructions
- Drifting off
- Swerving or drifting between lanes
- Difficulty responding quickly to traffic, unexpected stops, or roadblocks
- An increase in aggressive driving behaviors
Fatigued driving is a factor in many serious and fatal car crashes. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that they are too tired to drive until they cause an accident, are jarred awake by a honking horn, or miss their exit.
Accidents caused by drowsy driving vary widely in severity. A driver unable to react to a sudden slowdown in traffic could cause a minor fender-bender when they rear end the car in front of them. They could cause serious harm to themselves and nearby property when they fall asleep, drive off the road, and collide with a tree or building. They can cause multi-car accidents when they fall asleep and crash into another vehicle at full speed. The key to minimizing drowsy driving fatalities is knowing the signs of fatigued driving and responding appropriately.
Staying Safe on the Road
Pay attention and watch out for signs of drowsy driving when you are on the road. Signs that you may need to take a break include:
- Catching your mind wandering multiple times in a short stretch of road
- Heavy eyelids, nodding off
- Frequent yawning
- Restless or irritable thought processes
- Inability to stay in your lane
- Unintentional speeding up or slowing down
Plan ahead to avoid drowsy driving by:
- Driving with a buddy; taking turns driving can help both drivers get enough sleep, or the passenger can keep the driver awake and attentive
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness
- Do not drink before driving
- If you exhibit signs of drowsy driving, stop at a rest stop for a 20-minute nap or get a caffeinated drink
- While planning a long drive, plan for multiple stops; do not plan as though you will not need any breaks for food or rest
- At minimum, take breaks every 100 miles or two hours; use this time to walk around, get some fresh air, and refocus
Injured in a Drowsy Driving Crash?
While driving at night, you are not only at risk of becoming fatigued while driving. You are also at greater risk of being hit by someone who is too tired to drive safely. If this happens, you need to reach out to a personal injury attorney immediately. They can gather evidence and seek compensation through the insurance company or through a lawsuit. Provide copies of any evidence you have.
For example, if you have dash cam footage of the responsible driver swerving or driving erratically prior to the crash, that may serve as evidence that they were too tired to drive. You can also provide police reports, medical reports outlining your injuries, and estimates for vehicle repairs.
Contact Us If You Have Been Hurt in a Car Accident
If you or someone you love has been hurt because of someone else’s negligence, they must be held responsible. Take the first step now by contacting the team at Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C. Call us directly at 251-432-0612 or message us online to have someone reach out to you.