When you get behind the wheel of your car, you take on the immense responsibility of driving safely. When fatigued drivers choose to get behind the wheel, they are making a dangerous choice that can end in disaster. Drowsy driving is dangerous driving, and even the loss of an hour or two of sleep can make a significant difference.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares two startling statistics related to driving under the influence of exhaustion:
- About 4 percent of drivers aged 18 to 25 report having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the previous 30 days.
- While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that, in 2013, drowsy driving played a role in 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 fatalities, CDC believes these numbers are underestimated and that the actual number of fatal accidents caused by drowsy drivers is closer to 6,000 per year.
Drowsy Driving: The Telltale Signs
Many drivers are not even aware of their own exhaustion until it is too late. There are, however, several signs that you are driving while dangerously drowsy:
- If you find yourself yawning or blinking frequently
- If you cannot recall the last few miles that you have driven
- If you miss your exit for no reason
- If you find yourself drifting out of your lane
- If you startle yourself by hitting a rumble strip on the roadside
- If you feel yourself nodding off
If you experience any of these – or any other – sign that you are driving while overly tired, pull over at the next exit and take all necessary precautions. This can mean changing drivers, getting a room for the night, or whatever else you need to do.
How Being Drowsy Affects Your Ability to Drive Safely
Falling asleep behind the wheel is obviously exceedingly dangerous and is often deadly. Even if you do not fall asleep, however, driving while drowsy still affects your ability to drive safely:
- Affects your ability to pay adequate attention to the road and to the traffic around you
- Increases your reaction time if there is a need to brake or steer out of your lane suddenly
- Affects your ability to make safe driving decisions
In fact, certain drivers are more likely than others to drive under the influence of drowsiness:
- Drivers who regularly sleep too few hours
- Commercial truck and bus drivers
- Shift workers who work night shifts or long shifts
- Drivers who suffer from untreated sleep disorders, including sleep apnea