Drowsy Driving: We the People, Lacking Sleep

driver fatigueFive years ago, Emmy Morales’ life changed forever when she and her husband were victims of reckless driving. In the morning hours, when many commuters are driving to work, Morales and her husband were rear-ended by a drowsy driver. The impact of the crash killed her husband and left Morales so severely injured that she was unable to attend her husband’s funeral. The preventable accident left an everlasting emotional, financial and physical impact on Morales’ life, making her an advocate against drowsing driving. While her pledge to educate others about the dangers of drowsy driving cannot bring her husband back, nor fill the ever-present missing piece in her life, she hopes that her story will inspire others to think twice before driving while sleep deprived.

Stay Awake and Stay on the Road

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should try to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. To many busy adults, who spend hours of their day on the road, a full day at work, and toting children around to extracurricular activities, the recommended amount sounds like a dream. In reality, many adults only get a “good” 4-5 hours of sleep at night because some people simply cannot “turn off their brain” at night, but evidence shows that too little sleep has negative physiological and neurobehavioral consequences resulting in health problems, the inability to stay attentive, and a good chance of causing and being involved in a car accident.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that approximately 2.5% of fatal crashes and about 2% of injury crashes involve a drowsy driver; however, determining the cause of such crashes can be difficult to prove. NHTSA believes that up to 5,000-6,000 of fatal crashes occur per year because of a sleep deprived driver and even that estimate can be deemed a bit on the conservative side. The problem of drowsy driving should not be taken lightly as it’s just as dangerous as drunk driving and can affect drivers the same way, including less attentive drivers, slowed reaction time, and the driver’s inability to make clear and safe decisions.

Who’s Sleeping Behind the Wheel?

Anyone can be a drowsy driver; all it takes is a late night, lack of sleep, or “burning the candle” at both ends to put a driver and other innocent motorists at great risk of an accident. Some drivers are more likely to drive drowsy than others, often depending on an occupation such as commercial or long haul truck drivers and shift workers who work night, late night, or overnight shifts. Other particularly high risk drivers include teenage drivers, college students, drivers with sleeping disorders, those who take sedating medications, and of course, drivers who do not get enough sleep.
The best way to prevent a drowsy driving accident is to make sure that you are well rested before getting behind the wheel. If you start to feel sleepy, struggling to concentrate, or having trouble keeping your eyes open, find yourself missing exits, or hitting the rumble strip, you should stop driving as soon as you can. Many drivers think that simply rolling down the window for fresh air, getting a cup of coffee, or turning on the radio will keep drowsiness at bay. Some of these “remedies” may work temporarily, for a matter of minutes, but the best idea is to pull over to safety, check into a hotel room, and simply DON’T drive when you are tired.

Efforts to Stop Drowsy Driving

Many states across the U.S. are making valiant efforts to stop drowsy drivers from hitting the open road. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, states like Arkansas and New Jersey have made “driving while fatigued” a misdemeanor if the driver (who has been without sleep for 24 hours) is involved in an accident. Many states view drowsing driving as a “reckless behavior” and as a result try to make changes through education. In states, such as California and Texas, “Drowsing Driving Awareness” days and weeks have been created with an attempt to better educate drivers, new and experienced, reminding them to get plenty of rest before driving.

The next time you have a severe case of the yawns, hit snooze and get some zzz’s. Save sleep for your bed, not behind the wheel!



About the Author:
Andrew Miller is a passionate member of the End Ecocide movement, an avid legal blogger and Environmental Law Student. He has worked in marketing for over a decade and finds his passion in bringing concepts to life. As a Socialpreneur, he is an agent for positive social change through both his writing and business endeavors.

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