What you’ll learn reading this article
- Driving while drowsy or fatigued is just as dangerous as drinking and driving
- Falling asleep at the wheel or fatigued driving accounts for almost 30% of serious injury collisions a year in Indiana
- The warning signs of fatigued driving and what to do to combat them
If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not alone. It’s also more likely you’re commuting to work with hundreds of other sleepy motorists because fatigue affects everyone on the road – drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
Driving while drowsy or fatigued is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. That’s because lack of sleep affects a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle in the same way as drinking too much alcohol – by slowing reaction time, impairing judgment and decreasing situational awareness while increasing risk taking and lapses in attention.
In one year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates over 100,000 police-reported crashes nationwide involve drowsy driving. In one particular year, a Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report estimates 5,000 people died in crashes where drowsy driving was responsible. It’s easy to understand how lack of sleep can put you in a dangerous driving situation every day.
Drowsy Driving = Impaired Driving = Distracted Driving
In Indiana, drowsy driving is classified as impaired driving. Impaired driving falls under the distracted driving umbrella and distracted driving accounts for the largest percentage of the most auto accidents and resulting injuries each year.
Why is drowsy driving considered impaired driving? GHSA research shows nearly 83.6 million people are sleep deprived at work, at school and on the road. We regularly see how fatigue and lack of sleep have detrimental effects on a driver’s ability to control a vehicle, accounting for more than 71,000 injuries each year. According to the National Safety Council, fatigue-related crashes involving fatalities or injuries cost us $109 billion each year.
Drivers More Likely To Be Fatigued
A recent report examining driving behavior in Indiana notes unsafe actions by a driver are the primary cause of crashes, resulting in 111,298 accidents. This includes drivers who are most likely to be fatigued, drowsy or falling asleep behind the wheel, such as people who operate commercial semi-trucks, tow trucks and buses; shift workers, especially those working a night or swing shift; people with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or use medications that treat sleeplessness or insomnia; and drivers who simply do not get enough sleep.
Indiana State Police finds fatigued driving or falling asleep at the wheel accounts for 29.3% of injury collisions with at least one fatal or incapacitating injury.
If you are experiencing any of these signs while driving, get off the road and take a break:
- Missing your exit
- Yawning or blinking frequently
- Drifting from your lane
- Difficulty remembering the past few miles you’ve driven
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road
- Falling asleep, even for a moment
Indiana Laws Discourage Fatigued Driving
- .08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Law – By lowering the BAC limit to .08 when tested, impaired driving fatalities have reduced by 7%.
- Zero Tolerance Laws – It is illegal for people under the age of 21 to drive with a positive BAC, which has reduced impaired-driving fatalities by an estimated 4%.
- Administrative License Revocation – Police and driver license authorities can automatically revoke a person’s license for refusing or failing a BAC test.
- Graduated Licensing – Young drivers in the state’s licensing program must demonstrate responsible driving habits to advance from a learner’s permit to an intermediate or provisional license to full licensure.
Avoid Driving Drowsy In The First Place
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers this advice:
- Get enough sleep. Experts say it’s at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night – especially the night before getting behind the wheel the next morning.
- Teenagers are especially vulnerable to drowsy driving as they typically don’t get enough sleep at a time when they biologically need more sleep than adults. Encourage your teens (and young adults) to get enough sleep before operating a vehicle. This is especially true for male drivers under the age of 25, who make up an estimated 50% of drowsy driving crashes.
- Do not drink alcohol before driving. Alcohol increases drowsiness and impairs motor coordination.
- Be informed about your prescription medication and which ones can cause drowsiness. If they cause your drowsiness, avoid driving a vehicle while taking them.
- Try to avoid driving during the peak fatigue times of midnight to 6:00 am and late afternoon.
- Consider intervention initiatives such as crash avoidance technologies that detect patterns of drowsy driving and include alerts or warnings; college and university programs that help raise awareness of drowsy driving issues for students; and workplace education, health and safety programs that inform employees on the dangers of fatigued driving.
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