Which do you hear more about: drunk driving crashes or fatigued driving accidents? If you said drunk driving, you’re not alone. Drunk driving is often more reported than fatigued driving because there are tests available, such as a Breathalyzer, that can immediately indicate intoxication and impairment. With fatigue, there is no such test and self reporting isn’t 100 percent reliable.
Unfortunately, just because drowsy driving isn’t reported as often as drunk driving, this doesn’t mean it’s any less common or less dangerous.
In 2005, the National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll asking adult drivers if they had driven while feeling drowsy. Of those surveyed, 60 percent admitted to driving while fatigued with 37 percent actually admitting to falling asleep at the wheel while driving.
If any one of them had gotten into a crash as a result of their negligence, they could have been among the estimated 1,550 deaths or 71,000 injuries suffered each year in the United States.
What makes drowsy driving so dangerous?
The main thing that makes drowsy driving so dangerous is the fact that fatigue oftentimes has the same effect on a person’s judgment as alcohol does. Fatigue can significantly slow a person’s reaction time and impair their ability to think rationally, making them susceptible to collisions with other vehicles or even pedestrians.
According to a fact sheet for the National Sleep Foundation, the level of impairment for a person who has stayed awake for 18 hours is the same as a person who has a .05 blood-alcohol concentration. Not surprisingly, the longer a person goes without sleep, the higher their level of impairment.
The risk of collision with commercial drivers
One of the reasons fatigued driving may be such a problem in our country is because of our trucking industry. Many truck drivers are required to drive long distances, potentially on long, boring, rural highways during early morning hours or at night. As the National Sleep Foundation points out, these conditions are key factors in a number of drowsy driving crashes.
Stay awake, stay alive
Even though you can’t stop another driver from getting behind the wheel while tired, you can eliminate yourself from the problem by getting plenty of rest before driving and pulling over when you start to feel tired. As always, stay vigilant while driving and steer clear of drivers who appear to be putting you at risk.