“Drowsy driving” is the operation of a motor vehicle with a diminished cognitive ability, usually emanating from fatigue and sleepiness. It is also referred to as fatigued driving. Drowsiness inhibits your alertness and mimics the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol.
According to the NHTSA, annually on average, drowsy driving is responsible for over 72,000 crashes. Out of these, more than 41,000 injuries were reported and over 800 lives lost. These numbers could actually be more because several cases go unreported.
Drowsy driving is a huge problem, especially in the United States. It poses a significant risk to not only the driver’s life but also those of other innocent road users.
What Causes Drowsy Driving?
Falling asleep on the wheel can be attributed to a number of factors, key among them being:
- Sleep deprivation.
- This is most probably the prime cause of drowsy driving. The human body needs at least 7 – 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per day in order to function optimally. The truth is a majority of people operate on much less than that. You could be working for long hours, or raising an infant who keeps you awake all night, among other reasons. No matter the reason, your body logs the accumulated sleep as debt, and it may demand payback at the most inconvenient moment.
- Sleep disorder.
- You could be suffering from a medical condition like sleep apnea, insomnia or narcolepsy which causes irregular sleeping patterns. As a result, your body doesn’t get the recommended amount of rest. The effects of this may manifest in the form of fatigue and sleepiness especially when driving on a highway.
- Long distance driving.
- This is very common, especially among truck drivers. Driving continuously over long distances can be monotonous and sleep-inducing. The constant passing of environmental features while driving also creates a hypnotizing effect on drivers which can trigger drowsiness.
Signs That You Are About To Doze Off
It’s difficult to know the exact moment when you fall asleep because well, you’ll be asleep. What you can detect, however, are the warning signs that indicate sleep is on the way. When you notice any of these signs while on the road, it’s time to pull over and get some rest.
- Drifting from your lane.
- When you find yourself constantly drifting from your lane while on the road, that’s a red flag. It shows that your mind is struggling to maintain focus. Sometimes you may discover this after hitting some rumble strips. When this happens, pull over at a safe place and take a nap.
- This can signal a number of things, fatigue being one of them. If you find yourself yawning frequently while driving, your body is approaching its limits. You need to rest or swap driving duties if you have a co-driver.
- Delayed responses
- Being at the wheel requires you to be alert at all times. This enables you to anticipate situations before they become an emergency. For example, you can notice the car in front of you has braked and therefore start braking early. When you’re about to doze off, your alertness drops. You’ll find yourself making emergency reactions like braking or swerving abruptly. If this happens, you have been warned.
- Nodding off.
- Your head becomes too heavy to stay upright. It’s extremely dangerous to continue driving under such conditions. When you nod off, your body is at the point of giving up. You should pull over immediately.
How to Avoid Drowsy Driving
Here are some tips you can follow to ensure that you don’t fall victim to the dangers of fatigued driving:
- Ensure you are well rested before long drives.
- If you are feeling fatigued, a short nap can be quite revitalizing.
- Whenever possible, drive along with a partner who can assist you when fatigue sets in.
- Engaging in active conversation is also a great way to ensure you don’t get bored and doze off.
- Take a break. Make stop-overs along your way to break the monotony of a long drive.
- This will ensure that you stay alert for a long commute.
South Carolina Auto Accident Attorney
In case you are involved in an auto accident, more often than not you’ll need a helping hand. You may not be in a position to engage in legal battles or negotiations on compensation. That is why getting in touch with a reliable lawyer is considered a prudent move. An auto accident lawyer in South Carolina is your best source of advice, especially when compensation is involved. He/she will be able to represent your needs better through negotiation with the involved parties. Even if the case proceeds to trial, you will stand a better chance of emerging victorious.