July 7, 2016
Driving while tired is a risky activity, but it is one that most people have engaged in at one time or another. Whether because of the side effects of medication, a sleep disorder, shift work, or even just one sleepless night, people can easily find themselves in the situation of needing to get somewhere when they are exhausted. Because there isn’t a lot of public discussion about the dangers of drowsy driving, they may think it’s relatively safe to go ahead and drive regardless of how sleepy they are. That isn’t the case, however. Drowsy driving poses a significant risk because it impairs a person’s ability to focus and his or her reaction time, negatively influencing the thought processes and decision making that are imperative to safe driving.
Although it’s difficult to know for certain when a crash has been caused by an overtired driver, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2013 estimates suggested that it resulted in 72,000 accidents, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths. Some people are more at risk of becoming drowsy drivers than others, including those who operate tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses because they may work long, erratic hours; anyone who works the night shift; or anyone who has an untreated sleep disorder. People who take medications that can induce sleepiness are also more likely to be drowsy drivers, as is anyone who consumes alcohol to excess or in combination with any of these other factors.
If you are ever on the road and you notice that you can’t remember the last few miles you drove, that you’re yawning or blinking a lot, or that you’re drifting to the side of your lane, pull over and rest. Even a 15 or 20-minute nap will help significantly. If you can change drivers, do so as soon as possible. Don’t take the chance of continuing to drive when you’re overtired. Your safety is at stake, as is the safety of other drivers around you.