Many people fail to get the recommended eight hours of sleep every night, but still have to drive their kids to school and themselves to work, in the morning. Yet, you may not realize how dangerous this really is. It has long been known that drowsy or fatigued driving creates a risk for drivers who might fall asleep at the wheel and others on the road who might be involved in the resulting accident.
Implications of New Research on Drowsy Driving
Now, recent research indicates that getting less than seven hours of quality sleep makes you twice as likely to cause an accident on the road. The study, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety was based on of 7,234 drivers and 4,571 accidents. It revealed that those who get just four hours of sleep, or even five hours of sleep, are not just at risk for falling asleep; their drowsy driving, for all intents and purposes, is the equivalent of driving drunk. For those who get even less sleep than this, under four hours per night, the equivalent is having two times the legal limit of alcohol in your system.
With seven hours being the base amount needed for sleep at night, those who miss two or three hours (sleeping only four or five hours in a night) raise their risk of causing an auto accident by four times the average. This news is quite significant because the majority of drivers who would never dream of drinking and driving or texting/talking on the phone while driving are quite likely to view drowsy driving as a fairly innocent task, without a tremendous amount of risk. Many people on the road, especially early in the morning, are quite responsible drivers, who aren’t getting enough sleep and don’t recognize the hazard that they are creating for themselves and other drivers.
To illustrate the severity of this issue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one out of every 25 drivers admitted to drowsy driving within the prior month, which was serious enough to cause them to briefly nod off while driving (2015). Statistics from 2013 revealed that at least 6,000 fatal auto accidents were caused by drowsy driving that year alone.
Know and Recognize the Symptoms of Drowsy Driving
If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night, then you need to be aware of how much risk this creates when you get on the road in the morning. The same goes for those who work odd hours, such as third shift jobs, and aren’t able to get enough sleep during the day. Those who work varying hours, switching shifts or pulling doubles, are at even greater risk. If you fit into any of these categories of individuals who just aren’t getting enough hours of quality sleep at night, then you need to know and recognize the symptoms of drowsy driving so that you can avoid a potentially fatal accident.
The most common symptoms of drowsy driving include frequent yawning and drifting from your lane. You may also find yourself blinking a lot, and you might accidentally miss your turn or your exit. In many cases, drivers will find themselves unable to recall the past few minutes or the past few miles. This could mean that you nodded off or that your drowsiness has become a distraction.
It is important to note that these symptoms can occur even when you don’t really feel sleepy. You may have made it through your morning routine, drank your coffee, and even eaten breakfast before getting on the road, and you might feel perfectly awake before you set off. Then, these symptoms creep up, perhaps without any warning, and you must recognize them quickly to avoid becoming a statistic. The research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also found that more than 50% of drivers who were liable for drowsy driving auto accidents did not think that they were sleepy at the time.
What Can You Do to Prevent Drowsy Driving Accidents?
There are many steps that you can take to prevent drowsy driving auto accidents. To begin with, you must ensure that you get at least seven hours of sleep. If you struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting quality sleep, you may need to speak to your doctor. Keep in mind that this really is a serious issue, as proven by this new research. You can also try to avoid driving during times when you would normally be asleep. If you’re taking a long trip, make sure that you take a break every couple of hours. Other good tips include avoiding medications that might cause you to be drowsy and making a point of driving with a passenger who is alert and aware. You can even take turns driving.
The important thing here is that you do take steps to prevent drowsy driving auto accidents. And if you have been in an auto accident that was caused by a drowsy driver, then you would be wise to contact an experienced auto accident attorney in Greenville for a free consultation and to find out what your claim might be worth.