Drowsiness at the wheel: is it worth the risk?

You drive to work very early in the morning, very late at night, or both. You work without getting enough rest, and your ability to drive safely suffers from it. 

Most people do not understand the effects of lack of sleep. Aside from the physical effects, each year about 100,000 car accidents are caused by drowsy drivers. 

Everyone talks about the dangers of drunk driving, but drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.

The data

  • 34% of people acknowledge having driven after being awake for more than 17-19 hours.
  • Lack of sleep causes poor concentration and cognitive dysfunction.
  • Falling asleep is a process. It is possible to think that you are awake when in fact you are more asleep.
  • Car accidents caused by drowsiness are most common among men ages 18-29, shift workers, and parents.
  • Compared to women, men are at a higher risk of being drowsy while driving and a man is twice as likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.
  • The probability that a person who slept 6-7 hours will fall asleep at the wheel is twice that of a person who slept 8 hours or more.
  • Sleeping less than 5 hours increases the chance of falling asleep at the wheel by four or five.
  • The people who fall asleep behind the wheel most often are those who drive long, rural routes.
  • Driving between 4 and 6 a.m. puts you at a higher risk for drowsy driving.

The signs

Pay attention to your body so you can identify these signs of drowsy driving. If you spot these signs, stop to rest or so someone else can drive:

  • You feel like you have heavy eyelids and you find yourself blinking frequently.
  • You have difficulty paying attention to traffic signs.
  • You are yawning nonstop.
  • You can’t keep your head up.
  • You drift out of your lane.

The consequences

Due to drowsy drivers, in 2014 there were a total of 886 fatal accidents (2.5% of all fatal accidents for the year), around 37,000 accidents involving injured people and an estimated 45,000 accidents only caused property damage.

Now that we have more information about drowsiness behind the wheel, several people have received jail time for causing drowsy driving accidents. 

Lawsuits have been filed against these individuals in which the families of the victims have received millions of dollars.

One more fact: Staying awake for 18 consecutive hours is the same as having a blood alcohol level of .05, and after 24 hours that number increases to .10. 

A person is considered drunk if they have a blood-alcohol level of .08. You wouldn’t drive drunk, so don’t drive drowsy either. Take care of yourself and others when you are driving on the road.

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