Summer vacation for many is a time to relax and rejuvenate. However, it is also a hectic time when most families choose to travel. Americans tend to try and pack in as much into a short time as possible. This is also true of road trips. If you are driving on your vacation this summer and have a number of destinations and activities planned, at some point, you may find yourself driving while sleepy or drowsy. Many motorists try to drive late at night to avoid congestion on long road trips. This is asking for trouble because it is when a number of drivers tire themselves out. Traffic safety experts have recognized that driving while drowsy is just as dangerous and risky as driving under the influence.
Drowsy Driving Statistics
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), studies show that 37 percent of drivers in 2008 reported having fallen asleep at the wheel. The Council estimates that about 75 million drivers operate a vehicle while fatigued in just a month nationwide. More than one-third of drivers reported in 2008 that they drove while drowsy between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. and 17 percent said they nodded off between 5 and 9 p.m. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
Those who are most at risk for driving while drowsy are those who have been sleep-deprived. Six hours of sleep or less triples your risk. If you have been suffering from insomnia, driving long distances without proper breaks, driving through the night when you would normally be asleep, you may be at risk. Those who take sedatives or alcohol also run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
You know you are fatigued when you have difficulty focusing, blinking or have “heavy eyelids.” If you have trouble remembering the last few miles you drove or missed exits or traffic signs, you may have dozed off. Other signs of fatigued driving include trouble keeping your head up, feeling restless and irritable, yawning repeatedly and drifting away from your lane.
Preventing Drowsy Driving
There are several steps you can take to avoid fatigued driving:
• Get a good night’s rest. Experts at the National Sleep Foundation recommend seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults and between eight and nine hours for teenagers.
• Plan to drive long trips with a companion.
• Schedule regular stops every 100 miles or once every two hours.
• Avoid alcohol and any medications.
• Consume the equivalent of two cups of coffee. However, caffeine is not a substitute for rest or breaks.
As California personal injury attorneys who represent victims of car accidents, we see all too often that a crash is caused by a sleepy or fatigued driver. Please do not put yourself or your family at risk this summer. If you have been injured by a drowsy or negligent driver, please contact a reputed personal injury law firm to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.