Operating a vehicle when you’re tired, known as drowsy driving, could be more than just an inconvenience. When your brain and body are deprived of the rest they need, your ability to process information and react to it is diminished; so much so that studies equate drowsy driving to driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. If you’re feeling tired, getting behind the wheel may be more dangerous than you realize.
Americans are plagued with sleep deprivation caused by a host of issues from stress, medications, to work schedules, and sleep apnea. In a recent study, over 33% of participants admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at least once per month. However, driving drowsy means more than just people who knowingly fall asleep while driving. Drowsy driving is best described as bursts of microsleep, where the driver loses consciousness for small periods of less than 5 seconds. In 5 seconds at 70mph, you would travel over 500ft. A lot can happen in 5 seconds.
 FATIGUE, ALCOHOL AND PERFORMANCE IMPAIRMENT, DREW DAWSON & KATHRYN REID (HTTPS://WWW.NATURE.COM/ARTICLES/40775) JULY 1997
What Does Drowsy Driving Mean for You?
In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reported drowsy driving led to 91,000 crashes of which over 50,000 caused injuries. In 2019, 697 people lost their lives in traffic accidents related to drowsy driving across the US. A 2020 study shows 31% of people 18 and over do not get the sleep they need. That’s a staggering number of potentially drowsy drivers. With the holiday season just around the corner and daylight savings time beginning, November can be a dangerous time to be on the roads.
What Can You Do to Prevent Drowsy Driving?
The most important thing you can do to prevent drowsy driving is to plan ahead. Make sure you get the rest your body needs. Most crashes involving drowsy driving occurred between 12 am and 6 am, but late afternoon ranked just behind those stats so be sure you pay attention to your body’s own circadian rhythm.
- Listen to your body – yawning means you may be too tired to drive safely
- Avoid alcohol, even within legal limits it causes drowsiness
- Plan ahead – schedule long drives at times you’re well-rested
- Get a travel companion – someone to talk to and to share driving with
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night (7-9 hours per night)
There are 5 stages of sleep and getting to all 5 is critical to your well-being. If you find yourself waking up frequently during the night, you may not be reaching that deep, R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. Practicing good sleep hygiene is key to getting the quality of sleep your body needs to truly refresh itself.
- Make it a point to disconnect from electronic devices before bed
- Avoid caffeine before bed
- Keep on a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible
- Turn lights down 1 hour before bedtime
Ultimately, the best way to avoid drowsy driving being a factor in your travels is to monitor your own body’s cues. Nothing is worth putting yourself and others at risk. If you have been involved in an accident and you suspect drowsy driving was a factor in the crash, contact the legal team at Rutter Mills. Our investigators, many of whom are former police officers, are skilled at analyzing crash photos and witness statements, looking for clues other people may have missed. When your future is at stake, you need professionals to ensure the compensation you receive is what you truly deserve. Call or text us today at 757-622-5000 to speak with a member of our team about your case.
 National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: final report, 2015 Dec;1(4):233-243. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2015.10.004. Epub 2015 Oct 31