Often viewed as an inconvenience or, for some, a regular part of life, people commonly do not recognize the potential dangers of driving while drowsy. Unfortunately, however, even something as seemingly minor as fatigue or sleepiness may result in serious accidents.
Understanding the potential hazards posed by drowsy driving may help people protect themselves, their passengers and those with whom they share the roads.
How does drowsiness affect drivers?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleepiness or fatigue may affect people’s ability to safely operate their vehicles, even without them falling asleep while driving. Among other effects, drowsiness may delay drivers’ reaction times, which may increase their risk of crashing should they have to suddenly steer or brake. Additionally, sleepiness or fatigue may impair people’s attention, making them less able to focus on the road, and affect their decision-making.
Who is likely to drive while drowsy?
Anyone who gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle without having gotten adequate rest may become a drowsy driver. Other groups that may be more prone to driving while drowsy include shift workers, or those who work long hours or through the night, and commercial vehicle operators such as truckers, bus drivers and tow truck drivers. Motorists suffering from untreated sleep disorders and those who use certain medications may also have an increased risk of driving drowsy.
How prevalent is the problem of drowsy driving?
Approximately one out of every 25 drivers in one study reported having fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once in the last month. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, upwards of 100,000 car wrecks involving drowsy drivers occur each year across the U.S. Due to difficulties detecting drowsiness, however, more such collisions may go unreported. Each year, drowsy driving accidents cause approximately 71,000 non-fatal injuries and over 1,500 deaths.