Many people are under the impression that the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel is driving distracted or driving drunk. While this is certainly true, there is an inherent risk associated with drowsy driving as well, which has increasingly become a problem on Ohio’s long stretches of country roads. Let’s face it, our state is beautiful, but it’s hard to stay awake driving from Toledo to Cleveland, or Cleveland to Columbus. The scenic farms don’t mean as much at night.
According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, 1 out of every 25 adult U.S. drivers admitted to falling asleep while behind the wheel in the last month alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also estimates that drowsy driving was the culprit behind 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and more than 800 deaths in 2013. These numbers are underestimated, however — 6,000 fatal crashes related to drowsy driving could be happening per year.
Unfortunately, far too many preventable tragic results are caused by someone who falls asleep behind the wheel. Even falling asleep for just a couple of seconds is all it takes to cause a catastrophic accident with severe injuries or fatalities.
For the victims of a drowsy driving accident in Ohio, it may be impossible to turn back the clock and heal after an accident occurs. The loss of a loved one due to a preventable drowsy driving accident also can be devastating to family members.
The following are ways to learn the signs of drowsy driving and how to prevent it.
What is drowsy driving?
Drowsiness has many negative impacts on a driver’s ability to pay attention and control the vehicle. Drowsiness slows down the reaction time if a driver has to steer or brake suddenly, and it also makes drivers less able to focus on the road. Furthermore, drowsy driving impacts a driver’s ability to make good decisions.
A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety identified that drowsy driving can be just as risky as drunk driving. Drunk driving has long been the subject of numerous academic studies in order to identify how to prevent this unfortunate behavior that can claim lives across the country.
Drowsy driving, however, often is perceived as being less dangerous, but new research identifies that drivers who miss up to three hours of sleep a day can quadruple their risk of being involved in a vehicle accident. That’s compared to drivers who are able to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. And for drivers who sleep fewer than four hours, they’re 11.5 times more likely to get in an accident than those who aren’t sleep-deprived.
One third of drivers have recently admitted that they have hit the road and had a hard time keeping their eyes open. This behavior can be deadly, however — one in five fatal car crashes involve drowsy driving, according to AAA.
Who is most likely to drive drowsy?
Anyone who is not getting enough sleep or takes a medication that makes them sleepy may be at more serious risk of drowsy driving. In addition, those who work long shifts or work the night shift might be at greater risk of being involved in a drowsy driving accident, as well as those with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.
Commercial drivers who operate tractor trailers, tow trucks, and buses often put in long hours and may get bored or tired behind the wheel. And most fatal injuries in trucking accidents involve passenger-vehicle operators, not the truck driver. Driver error is 10 times more likely to be a cause of a trucking accident versus any other factor.
Older adults, individuals who have a sleep debt (accumulation of losing sleep each night over time), and teenagers are among the highest risk groups for those involved in accidents caused by drowsy driving. Men also have twice as many drowsy-driving crashes as women, AAA reports.
It’s important to stick to a comprehensive sleep schedule and ensure that you’re well rested anytime you hit the road.
Signs of a Drowsy Driver
One of the most important things you can do is identify the warning signs of drowsy driving in order to prevent a serious accident.
Some of the warning signs that you should watch out for behind the wheel include:
- Missing your exit
- Drifting between lanes
- Blinking or yawning frequently
- Difficulty remembering the past couple of miles
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road
In any situation in which you experience one or more of these warning signs, this is an indication that you’re getting sleepy behind the wheel and that you should pull over. Putting the window down or turning up the radio are not effective measures for preventing drowsy driving.
If you notice the warning signs of drowsy driving, the CDC recommends pulling over to safe place and taking a 15-20 minute nap, or changing drivers.
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving
There are several things you can do before taking the wheel in order to prevent drowsy driving and its negative consequences:
- Avoid taking medications that make you sleep or drinking alcohol before getting on the road. Drinking and driving is never a good mix to begin with.
- Talk to your physician about treatment options available if you have a sleep disorder that causes you to feel sleepy during the day.
- Stick to a sleeping schedule that makes it easier for your body to check in to when it’s time to sleep. Using a sleep diary can help.
- Get plenty of sleep. The majority of adults need at least seven hours of sleep every single day, while teenagers need eight or more hours.
Finally, it is important that you always be aware of the signs of drowsy driving, not just for yourself, but for other drivers on the road as well. You may want to let a drowsy driver pass you or alert authorities that someone else on the road appears to be struggling to stay awake.
Get Help after a Drowsy Driving Accident in Ohio
If you or someone you know has already been injured in a drowsy driving accident, you need to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn more about your rights. You may be entitled to compensation. Contact us for a free case evaluation today.