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Drowsy Driving: Causes and Tips for Prevention

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Jul 19, 2019 in Auto Accident

Most people know that getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated is an irresponsible and costly decision. The dangers of drunk driving are well understood, but too often people who are not willing to get behind the wheel drunk are willing to do it while tired.

While driving drunk is certainly the more dangerous of the two, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that as many as 6,000 fatal crashes per year may be caused by drowsy driving. In 2013 alone, drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths. Additionally, one in 25 adult drivers report falling asleep at the wheel in the last 30 days, according to a study published by the CDC.

At the end of the day, driving involves operating heavy machinery and should only be done by someone who is licensed and completely mentally sound.

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Brain

Each night when you go to sleep, your brain registers what has happened throughout the day, stores away important information, and renews itself. When you do not get enough sleep, your brain is not able to restore itself and function like it normally would. This results in several adverse effects such as reduced reaction time, less effective working memory, and memory loss. Long-term sleep deprivation makes these conditions more serious and can begin to lower your overall quality of life considerably.

Put in the context of trying to drive a car, you are going to have increased difficulty paying attention to other drivers, you will not be able to react as quickly in dangerous situations, and you are more likely to get lost or execute a driving maneuver incorrectly.

At-Risk Populations

Individuals who work at night or drive for a living are both more likely to engage in drowsy driving. This includes truck drivers, uber drivers, and night-shift employees who are unable to have a regular sleeping schedule and follow their normal circadian rhythm.

Many teens and college students are also at risk for drowsy driving, as they tend to get less sleep and spend more time driving at night in general. This is made worse by the fact that teens have a greater biological need for sleep.

How to Prevent Drowsy Driving

Like drunk driving, accidents related to drowsy driving are completely preventable. The easiest way for you to prevent drowsy driving is with proper sleep habits. 

The best way to do this is to regulate and monitor your sleep. If you are sticking to a regular and healthy sleep schedule, you are not going to be sleep deprived on your normal commute. That means you need to be sleeping for the recommended seven to nine hours a night as an adult and making sure this window is at the same time each night.

What a lot of people do not know is that sleeping at regular intervals helps your brain just as much as sleeping for enough hours because it helps your brain establish a consistent circadian rhythm, which some people know as an internal clock.

When planning a long trip or vacation, split driving into shifts to minimize the amount of time that anyone is spending behind the wheel while tired. If you are the only person who can drive the vehicle you should plan to make stops along the way. While it can be tempting to drive through the night and get where you are going faster, be cautious and listen to your body to avoid fatigue.

What to do if You Are in an Accident

If you are in an accident, do your best to remain calm and assess the situation. Get out of your car, call your insurance company, and call an ambulance if you are injured. Sometimes there can be injuries that are not immediately visible, so you should always alert the authorities after an accident. Even if you do not think you need to call the police, it is always a better idea to report these incidents for insurance and health reasons.

Drowsy driving is a serious issue that should be recognized as such and avoided at all costs. Just like driving while intoxicated, drowsy driving often comes with serious risk of injury and even death. However, by planning ahead and making sleep a priority in your life, you may avoid a potential accident, and possibly even save your own life.

If you have been in an accident due to drowsy driving, the Portland car accident lawyers at Rizk Law can help you figure out the next steps to take.

Call now for a FREE case evaluation!