The data accumulated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that drowsy drivers are just as dangerous as drivers who are drunk behind the wheel. In fact, the accidents caused by drowsy driving are on average more severe than drunk driving incidents due to the simple fact that most accidents caused by drowsy drivers happen at high speeds on the freeway – the dreaded “highway hypnosis.” Additionally, because the driver is nearly asleep, often no effort to avoid the collision such as swerving or braking will occur prior to impact.
Clearly, drowsy driving is a more difficult problem to prevent, as there are no checkpoints to evaluate drivers for sleepiness and driving while tired is not criminal activity. Even among peers, while it may be expected to take a friend’s keys if they have had a few drinks and want to drive home, a yawn will usually not elicit the same level of concern and intervention. Accordingly, it is dependent upon the driver to be aware of his or her level of alertness. Yawning, heavy eyelids and slower thought processes are all warning signs to rest before getting behind the wheel.
Long road trips can add boredom to the equation, which often leads to increased drowsiness. Drivers should share the driving duties on long road trips, allowing the passenger to rest. Even a 15-20 minute nap can raise alertness significantly. Making frequent pit stops to get out of the vehicle and walk around can get the blood flowing and increase alertness. Also, before beginning a long road trip, get a good night’s sleep, and be aware of any side effects of medication – if 20 minutes after you take an allergy pill you feel tired, save the pill for the period of time that you will not be driving. Finally, pack and eat light and frequent meals rather than a large, greasy bag of fast food, which can lead to sluggishness.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident caused by drowsy driving, please do not hesitate to give me a call for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400, or if you are outside of the greater Sacramento area, toll-free at (800).