From long commutes to late night drives home, everyone has felt at least a little tired behind the wheel. However, sleep-deprived driving statistics show that your chances of getting into an automobile accident increase by threefold when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
In fact, if you’ve ever driven after being awake for more than 20 hours, like during a long road trip, it’s like driving with the equivalent of a 0.08% blood-alcohol content-the legal limit in the United States. That’s how dangerous drowsy-driving is, so it should be taken seriously.
Prevalence of Crashes Related to Tired Drivers
Every year in the United States, there are approximately 100,000 reported car crashes, 800 fatalities, and over 50,000 vehicle-related injuries attributed to drowsy drivers, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. This is likely a gross underestimate.
Researchers believe that the number of car accidents related to drowsy drivers could be as much as 350% more than we know. This is because it’s difficult to always know if someone being tired was the cause of an accident.
In addition to the injuries and needless deaths caused by tired drivers, it’s estimated that property damage due to these accidents could be more than $109 billion every year. This raises the prices of insurance for every driver on the road.
If you’ve been in an accident caused by a tired driver, a Bay Area auto accident attorney can help you with your case. In many states, it is illegal to drive while knowingly fatigued, as it is a risk to yourself and everyone else on the road.
Risk Factors of Driving While Tired
People that drive while they’re tired are more prone to speeding and slower reaction times that leads to more serious accidents, particularly on highways and long stretches of road. Higher rates of speed combined with slower reaction times are a recipe for disaster.
Accidents are also more common during the early morning and evening, when people are traveling to and from work when they’re already exhausted. Drowsy driving is most common among people aged 46-64 years of age, with nearly 45% of adults in this age group admitting to nodding off behind the wheel.
Drowsy driving also greatly affects younger, inexperienced drivers, workers who work long hours including truck drivers, people with sleep conditions such as insomnia and sleep apnea, as well as people that drive while taking medications that cause drowsiness.
What to Do if You’re Too Tired to Drive
The first step is to get a good night’s sleep. Anything less than 6 hours can drastically affect your alertness and increase your chance of an accident. If you’re unable to get a full 8 hours while traveling, take a few minutes to pull over and nap for at least 10 minutes before getting behind the wheel.
Sometimes, regardless of how long you’ve slept, you could feel very tired while driving. Try opening your car windows to let in some fresh air or turn on the air conditioning. The cool air will help wake you up.
If you notice too frequent yawning, blinking, nodding off, or trouble keeping your eyes open, pull over immediately. Drowsy driving accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.