When we hear about an accident involving an impaired driver, it's easy to assume that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, there's another factor that can similarly impair a driver's performance: fatigue. Fatigue can slow drivers' reaction time and limit their ability to assess and react to roadway situations, making their car accident risks considerably higher. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers answer five basic questions about drowsy driving and its impact on roadway safety.
1. How widespread is the problem of drowsy driving?
In a recent survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, two out of five respondents (or about 41%) admitted to falling asleep while driving at some point in their lives. And the National Sleep Foundation reports that 60% of Americans have driven while drowsy within the last year.
2. Who is most likely to drive while drowsy?
All humans need sleep on a daily basis, so any driver can become fatigued under the right circumstances. However, there are certain groups of people who have a higher risk of being involved in a crash caused by drowsiness. They include the following:
• Young drivers, particularly men under age 26
• Truck drivers, especially long-haul drivers
• Drivers with undiagnosed or untreated medical conditions, or who use sedating medications
• Employees who work long or overnight shifts, or who drive frequently for business reasons
3. What are some warning signs that suggest fatigue is impairing my driving performance?
If you experience any of the following symptoms when you're behind the wheel, it may be in your best interest to pull over and get some sleep.
• Frequent blinking; heavy or droopy eyelids
• Difficulty keeping your head up
• Missing exits, turns or traffic signals
• Wandering, disconnected thoughts or daydreaming
• Repeated yawning
• Difficulty remember the last few miles traveled
• Drifting in and out of your lane; hitting rumble strips
• Feeling restless, irritable or disoriented
4. What can I do to avoid drowsy driving?
AAA offers several basic tips to help you avoid driving while drowsy:
• Take frequent brakes, at least every two hours (or 100 miles).
• Travel with a passenger who will stay awake with you.
• Avoid drinking even small amounts of alcohol before you drive.
• If you plan to drive a long distance, be sure to get plenty of rest (at least six hours) before you travel. Never plan to work a full day and then drive during the overnight hours.
• When possible, plan your drive time for hours that you're normally awake, or make arrangements to stay overnight.
5. What should I do if I've been involved in an accident caused by a drowsy driver?
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your accident, it may be prudent to seek advice from a personal injury lawyer, especially if you were injured in the collision. An attorney can review the specific details of your case, explain your legal rights and options, and help you determine the best way to proceed.