When people think about the leading causes of car accidents, factors like speeding, distracted driving and drunk driving often come to mind. However, one often underestimated and less talked about factor that significantly contributes to road accidents is drowsy driving.
The consequences of driving while fatigued can be just as devastating as those of other dangerous behaviors behind the wheel.
Detriment to alertness
Drowsy driving occurs when a person operates a vehicle while feeling excessively tired or fatigued. This state of drowsiness impairs a driver’s alertness, reaction time and overall cognitive function. It is akin to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in terms of the negative impact on driving abilities.
These accidents result in numerous fatalities and injuries. In fact, drowsy driving is responsible for approximately 633 deaths in 2020.
Several factors can lead to drowsy driving and this lowered sense of attention. Some people may have conditions such as sleep apnea or insomnia that can disrupt their sleep patterns, leading to persistent fatigue during the day. Some others may undertake extensive road trips without sufficient breaks, leading to drowsy driving. The monotony of highway driving can exacerbate the problem.
Fatigue impairs a driver’s ability to make sound decisions, increasing the likelihood of poor judgment on the road. Drowsy drivers are more likely to drift out of their lanes or even fall asleep at the wheel, leading to collisions with other vehicles or objects.
To reduce the risk of drowsy driving-related accidents, a motorist should prioritize sufficient sleep, especially before embarking on long journeys. Drivers should also take regular breaks during extended trips and avoid driving during their body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
Recognizing the signs of drowsiness, such as heavy eyelids and yawning, is important for making informed decisions about whether to continue driving or pull over safely. Being aware is the first step to driving safely at night and when long hours cause drivers to feel sleepy.