Have you slept? Drowsy driving is riskier than you think

Most don't realize it, but fatigued driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving

In this always-connected, always-busy world, many of us wear our lack of sleep as a badge of honor. Being tired is seen as a mark of success - we take it to mean the same as being dedicated to your job, devoted to your family and popular with your friends. Yeah, we're tired, but there's just so much to do!

What we don't realize, though, is that this exhaustion could be putting ourselves, our loved ones and our communities at risk. Did you know studies have shown that lack of sleep affects reaction time and motor coordination in the same way that alcohol intoxication does? According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 100,000 car accidents each year are caused by drowsy driving.

Who is at risk for drowsy driving?

Generally speaking, the National Institutes of Health recommends that adults get at least seven or eight hours of sleep every night. Adolescents need at least nine or 10 hours. Anything less than this, especially on a regular basis, can increase the risk of a crash. In fact, being awake for 18 hours has been shown to impair drivers to the same extent as if their blood alcohol content was .05 - close to the legal limit for drunk driving.

Some groups are more at risk than others. For example, people who work various different shifts are more likely to engage in drowsy driving than people who work a regular daytime schedule, likely because of disruptions in sleep routine. Moreover, young people are more likely to ignore the dangers of drowsy driving and get behind the wheel when they are fatigued.

What can be done about it?

It's important to remember that falling asleep at the wheel isn't the only risk that comes from fatigued driving. A drowsy driver can also cause accidents because of inattentiveness, distraction or poor reaction time. Be aware of the signals that you may be too tired to drive safely, which include:

  • Frequent or uncontrollable yawning and blinking
  • Leaving your lane or hitting a rumble strip
  • Not really remembering the last several minutes of your drive
  • Missing your turn or exit

If you notice any of these signs, it's safest if you change drivers or pull over to rest for a while before getting back on the road. A quick boost of caffeine can be effective for a very short trip, but it is not a long-term solution.

Even better, avoid getting in the car altogether if you're feeling tired. Consider taking public transportation, a taxi or a car service like Uber or Lyft instead. Just like you shouldn't get behind the wheel after having several drinks at the bar, you shouldn't drive when you are noticeably fatigued.

What happens if an accident is caused by a fatigued driver?

When an accident is caused by any form of negligence, including drowsy driving, injured victims have a right to seek financial compensation for the harms they have suffered. Possible damages include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your rights and options. Accident victims in the San Diego area can call the attorneys at Bender & Gritz, APLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

Keywords: car accidents, drowsy driving, fatigued driving