Every year, nearly 72,000 vehicle accidents are caused by drowsy drivers. Further studies have shown that getting less than four hours of sleep increases an individual’s crash rate by 11.5 times. Despite these alarming statistics, many drivers continue to get on the road fatigued enough to impair their driving. However, making an effort to get better sleep and taking action while driving can help lower incidents of drowsy driving.
The average adult needs at least seven to eight hours of sleep to function at peak efficiency. Sleep deprivation takes a serious toll on the mind and body. With each lost hour of sleep, reasoning skills, decision-making abilities, and reactions times are compromised. Without adequate rest, the neurons in the brain responsible for sending and receiving messages begin to slow down.
As the brain slows down, drivers start to show signs of impaired driving like drifting in and out of the traffic lane, missing turns or exits, and short-term memory loss. With memory loss, the driver forgets the last few miles driven and suddenly finds himself further along in the journey than previously thought. The driving impairment due to drowsy driving is comparable to driving while under the influence of alcohol. In this state, drivers cannot safely respond to changing traffic and road conditions.
Some age groups and people who work in certain occupations are at higher risk for drowsy driving. Teens with their lack of driving experience, early start times, and overestimation of their driving abilities are among those at risk. The danger doesn’t subside as they enter college. College students come under extreme stress, a heavy academic load, and increased social opportunities that lead to half of all college students fighting to stay awake.
Those who work occupations with demanding or changing work schedules are also at higher risk including shift and night workers, police officers, EMS providers, health care workers, and commercial vehicle drivers. These occupations often have long shifts or shifts that require working during typical sleep hours.
Awareness of the danger of drowsy driving is only the first step. To prevent life-altering accidents for which you are liable, efforts need to be made to get more sleep. Not only that, all drivers need to be responsible and take action if they find themselves getting drowsy while driving.
Developing good sleep hygiene can help you get more high-quality sleep. Start by creating a bedroom devoted to sleep. Your bedroom should be kept cool, dark, and quiet to allow the body the best conditions for rest. Check your mattress and boxspring. If you wake up sore and achy, it might be time to find a mattress that supports your preferred sleep position.
Your habits also play an important role in the quality of your sleep. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants within four hours of bedtime. Turn off screens an hour before bed to prevent the bright light from signaling your brain that it’s time to stay awake. Try to keep a consistent bed and wake time to help your body follow its natural circadian rhythms. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, consider developing a bedtime routine to release tension and stress as well as help your brain know when to release sleep-inducing hormones.
Even with good sleep hygiene, chances are you may find yourself nodding off behind the wheel at one time or another. If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open, pull over in a safe, well-lit area and take a short 15-30 minute nap to temporarily counteract the effects of sleep deprivation. If you have a second driver, switch drivers every two hours and rest while you’re not driving. Other options to try include rolling down your window, chewing gum, or turning on loud, upbeat music to awaken your senses.
Contact Baseluos Law Firm to discuss your options if you have been the victim of a trucking accident. Chances are the driver who injured you acted negligently and fell asleep at the wheel!