Scientists have long known that getting enough sleep is essential for people to operate at their best, both mentally and physically. However, many people report having driven while they were drowsy, as many as 1 in 24, according to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drivers who drive while fatigued are more likely to cause a fatal car accident, and often function at the same level as someone who has been drinking alcohol.
How Sleepiness Affects Performance
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has compiled several studies that show when people are tired they pay less attention to what they are doing. Sleepiness or fatigue causes slower reaction times, reduced vigilance, and worsens information processing.
The studies note that while people may use physical activities or food and drinks to keep themselves awake, these only mask the symptoms of fatigue, but do not improve the driver’s reaction time. During repetitive tasks such as long distance driving, people often will let their defenses down and involuntarily fall asleep.
Drowsy Driving is Like Drunk Driving
While everyone is aware of the dangers of drunk driving, many don’t realize that driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous.
The NTHSA estimates that at least 100,000 crashes every year are caused by drowsy driving. The CDC reports that being awake for 20 hours straight affects the ability to drive the same as a blood alcohol content of .08%, the legal limit in all states.
When driving fatigued, you are more likely to make poor decisions, be unable to stop suddenly when required, and are more likely to leave your lane of travel. These are the same telltale signs of a drunk driver.
Real World Consequences
Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its findings in the investigation of the 2014 accident that killed comedian, James McNair, and severely injured comedian, Tracy Morgan, former star of shows like Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.
The NTSB found that the major cause of the accident was fatigued driving. The driver of the truck involved in the accident hadn’t slept in 28 hours. Morgan continues to cope with a severe brain injury, and will likely deal with the consequences of the accident the rest of his life.
Unfortunately, Tracy Morgan’s story is not unusual. Many people are injured or killed in car accidents because of fatigued driving every year.
Preventing Fatigued Driving
Here are some of the best ways to prevent fatigued driving:
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep before heading out on the road.
- Pull over at a rest stop or parking lot as soon as you first begin to feel tired.
- Do not try pumping yourself up with energy drinks or caffeine. These only mask your symptoms, but will not make you a more alert driver.
- On long trips, drive with another driver that can switch off when one of you gets sleepy.
- Remember getting somewhere late is better than not getting there at all. Take your time and stop for the night instead of pushing through.
If You’ve Been in an Accident Caused by Fatigued Driving
Every year, drivers in the Atlanta area and all over Georgia, are injured in car accidents caused by sleepy drivers. If you have been injured, you need to contact or call Van Sant Law at 404-991-5950 right away. You only have so much time before it’s too late to bring your claim.