Whether it’s due to getting up early for the morning commute, staying up late working on a big project, or just simply not getting enough sleep—we probably drive drowsy more often than we think. Generally, this wouldn’t be very alarming. Driving drowsy isn’t the same as driving under the influence, right? What most drivers and passengers are unaware of is that fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. The similarities between the two are eye-opening to say the least, and should cause drivers to pause the next time they get behind the wheel while sleepy.
Drunk Driving vs. Fatigued Driving
Though it’s common knowledge that most adults need around eight hours of sleep each night, surveys from the Department of Transportation (DOT) indicate one in three adult drivers sleep fewer than seven hours a night, and many get far less sleep. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), drowsy or fatigued driving is impaired driving. Around 6,400 fatal fatigued driving accidents occur annually across the country. Drivers who get behind the wheel when they are drowsy or sleep-deprived are three times more likely to be involved in a car accident.
Sleep deprivation has effects on the body that resemble intoxication. Drivers who get behind the wheel after losing even just two hours of their normal sleep cycle experience a feeling similar to consuming three beers. Adequate sleep is necessary for the body to function normally; without the recommended seven to eight hours of a sleep each night, drivers run a four times greater risk of being involved in an accident than those who sleep at least seven hours the previous night. This increased possibility of a car accident is the same as that of a driver behind the wheel with a blood-alcohol level of .08, which is above the legal limit in Texas. The dramatic increase in accident likelihood is due to the toll sleep deprivation takes on the body’s senses. Driver visibility is impaired, reaction times slowed, and the possibility of falling asleep at the wheel and losing control is high. These characteristics are all similar to those of a drunk driver unable to properly maintain focus and control of their vehicle.
What Can Be Done?
Around 60% of American adults have admitted to driving while sleep-deprived, and one-third of adults have reported falling asleep at the wheel. The reality is that for most individuals, the idea of receiving seven to eight hours of sleep a night sounds like a pipe dream. That being said, fatigued driving can be avoided. If a driver is unable to get a full night’s rest, they should watch out for the following signs of sleep deprivation:
- Heavy eyelids
- Inability to retain focus or daydreaming
- Inability to stay in lane – drifting or swerving
- Rubbing eyes
If a driver experiences any of these, it is best to pull off the road at a safe and designated rest area. Prior to getting behind the wheel, a driver can also take the following actions to prevent drowsy driving:
- Do not consume alcohol or drugs
- Do not drive between midnight and 6:00 am, as the body’s biological rhythm will naturally want to sleep during these hours
- Do not rush, as this tends to lead to mistakes even on a full night’s rest
- Drink caffeine
- Have a second driver with you to take over or start the drive
- If possible, take a short nap before long drives
New Technology May Help Detect Drowsy Driving
Even though drowsy driving is so dangerous, many drivers continue to drive without getting enough sleep. Luckily, however, new technology may be able to detect both drowsy and distracted drivers. Guardian Optical Technologies, an Israeli tech company, recently unveiled a unique addition to its in-cabin sensor for cars, a vision-based drowsiness and distraction detector. To protect drivers from both drowsy and distracted driving, Guardian’s “All In One” sensor detects activity inside the cabin of the car. The sensor uses video image recognition, depth mapping, and optical micro to macro-motion analysis to scan vehicle occupants. The newest capability of the sensor determines if the driver’s head position shifts in a way that suggests drowsiness or distraction. If a threshold for either state is met, the system sounds an alarm. It’s not just companies like Guardian, however, that are beginning to make these changes. Bosch, for example, makes a system that monitors steering irregularities to track driver fatigue.
Lubbock Car Accident Attorneys
West Texas residents are more than familiar with the need to drive long distances. As we enjoy our open spaces, it is important that drivers be aware of their bodies and what they require to safely control a vehicle. If you or a loved one was seriously injured or killed in a car accident, contact the Lubbock personal injury attorneys of Liggett Law Group today for a free and confidential case consultation. There is limited time to act following a Texas car crash, so don’t wait to reach out.