We have all been there. It's late at night, we're tired, and we have to get home. Regardless of the distance, it is never safe to drive while drowsy. In fact, it is one of the most dangerous things motorists do regularly. Many states have an official Drowsy Driving Prevention Week; Florida's is the first week of September to honor the memory of eight-year-old Ronshay Dugans, who was killed in 2008 when a cement truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into her school bus. National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is during the first full week of November.
At the Michael L. Morgan Law Group, we want everyone to be aware of the dangers of driving while drowsy and take steps to ensure their safety.
Drowsy Driving Awareness
Drowsy driving is a serious and common occurrence on roadways throughout the United States. Since the mid-2000s, both state and federal government transportation programs have followed the issue with hopes of reducing and eliminating it. At the forefront of research is the National Sleep Foundation. They've created a website (drowsydriving.org) that provides readers with information about drowsy driving. Additionally, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Agency has regionally-focused statistics and tips for dealing with drowsy driving.
Risks of Drowsy Driving
First and foremost, drowsy driving disproportionately affects young drivers between the ages of 18 and 29. These drivers are often out on the road later than their older counterparts. Drivers with families, including small children, are also more likely to drive drowsy than those without.
A more common risk for drowsy driving involves alcohol consumption, even if drivers are under the legal limit for driving. A single alcoholic drink can make a driver more likely to be drowsy or fall asleep.
Drowsiness is difficult to properly assess, unlike blood alcohol content (BAC), because there aren't many concrete metrics that police can use to determine if a driver is drowsy. Additionally, each individual has a different sleep schedule and reacts differently to exhaustion.
However, common issues that people experience while driving tired include:
- Slowed reaction time
- Issues with vision
- Impairment of senses
- Micro-sleeping (nodding off) or falling asleep
Drowsy Driving Statistics
Facts and figures related to drowsy driving have been steadily collected since the early 2000s across the United States. Though there is variation year to year, the statistics indicate that drowsy driving is a serious problem.
A 2002 poll found that nearly 72% of young drivers (under 30) who responded said they had driven while drowsy in the last year. In the same poll, more than half of 35 to 55-year-olds reported driving drowsy. Even worse, 37% of drivers (more than 100 million people) report that they have fallen asleep at the wheel in the last year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 accidents occur due to sleepy drivers each year. This results in an estimated 1,500 deaths. In 2015, the state of Florida reported 23 fatalities from 4,000 accidents that involved drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
Though these stats are staggering, there are methods of prevention.
Drowsy Driving Prevention
Though it may seem simple, preventing drowsy driving requires conscious effort. First and foremost, no one should be driving at times they are normally sleeping. If driving long distances is necessary, then plan rests during your journey and be sure to rest up before starting your travels. Should you plan on being in the car for a long trip, stop to get coffee or another caffeinated drink. Finally, if you are taking any medication with drowsiness as a side effect, either avoid driving or look for a travel buddy that can drive for you.
Ultimately, preventing drowsy driving requires individuals to assess their own tiredness and make prudent decisions about whether or not they are fit to drive. Next time you get behind the wheel, ask yourself if you are in the best possible condition to be alert and focus on the task of driving. If not, find an alternative way to get to your destination or choose to drive at a time when you know you will be in a better condition.
Michael L. Morgan Law Group: Helping Victims of Drowsy Drivers
Drowsy driving is avoidable. Following the tips above can save lives and ensure safer roads for everyone. However, even the safest drivers can become victims due to someone else's carelessness.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one and someone else is at fault, call the Michael L. Morgan Law Group in Sarasota, Florida at 941-444-1028. We offer free consultations so you can get your questions answered and gain candid advice about what your best course of action is moving forward.