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Waking Up to Problem of Drowsy Driving

Tennessee auto accident lawyers offer expert advice regarding drowsy and distracted driving.

A few yawns and a head nod or two might be part of your typical morning drive to work, but did you know that drowsy driving can drastically affect your driving ability and response time?

Although driving while you're tired may not seem like a big deal, it can quickly turn into a very serious, and sometimes fatal, situation.

business man yowning while driving

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) did a poll in 2005 that found:

60% of adult drivers – about 168 million people – say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, and more than one-third, (37% or 103 million people), have actually fallen asleep at the wheel! In fact, of those who have nodded off, 13% say they have done so at least once a month. Four percent – approximately eleven million drivers – admit they have had an accident or near accident because they dozed off or were too tired to drive.

Anyone can be a victim of drowsy driving, but one of the problems is that it's hard for us to accurately gauge when we're too tired to drive. We often feel like we're ok, still able to focus, and don't need to take a break when really, we should. We often don't even realize we're beginning to fall asleep until it's too late.

An article from Psychology Today explains, "The initial phase of sleep, Stage 1, is actually a transitional period between sleep and waking. You can be in Stage 1 sleep and feel as though you've been awake. But during this phase, brain waves are slowing, and the body is relaxing in preparation for deeper sleep."

Anyone Can Be a Drowsy Driver

Although anyone can be susceptible to driving drowsy, research shows that those at the greatest risk are:

  • People who get 5 hours of sleep a night or less

  • Young male drivers (ages 17-23)

  • Adults with children in their household

  • Shift workers and commercial truck drivers
  • People with sleep disorders (especially those who are untreated)

  • People that take medication that causes drowsiness

Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Many people would quickly agree that distracted driving is extremely dangerous, but most don't realize that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that "Between 2005 and 2009 there was an estimated average of 83,000 crashes each year related to drowsy driving. This annual average includes almost 886 fatal crashes (2.5% of all fatal crashes), an estimated 37,000 injury crashes, and an estimated 45,000 property damage only crashes." And these numbers are likely far from accurate because drowsy driving can often be difficult to determine as the cause of an accident.

The best way to avoid drowsy driving is to regularly get enough sleep – at least 6 hours, but 8 or more is ideal – especially if you have a long road trip ahead. Also, avoid drinking alcohol if you're going to be driving soon after consumption.

Even though you may not be drunk, a small amount of alcohol can make you sleepy and impair your driving. Drinking coffee, sodas, or energy drinks can give a temporary boost of energy, but ultimately, these pick-me-ups may be more detrimental. They tend to give you a false sense of alertness that makes you feel more awake than you actually are.

If you feel like you're getting drowsy while driving, the best thing to do is stop somewhere safe, take a 20-minute nap, and drink a cup of coffee. It's much better to take longer to get where you're going than to end up in a potentially terrible accident.

If you've been involved in an accident with a drowsy driver, call one of our personal injury lawyers for a free consultation. For more information on automobile accidents and how to stay safe on the road, read how to avoid distracted driving.

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