While most people are well aware of the dangers of drunk driving, few realize that sleepiness is just as dangerous as drunkenness while on the road. An estimated 100,000 crashes each year result from driver fatigue, causing roughly 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries.
While driver fatigue is dangerous for anyone, some people are statistically at greater risk than others:
- Young adults: Adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are more likely to drive drowsy than other age groups. In addition, they are less likely to pull over and take a nap while driving, increasing their chances of getting in an accident.
- Men: Men are twice as likely to fall asleep behind the wheel as women.
- Parents: People with children at home tend to get less sleep and are more likely to experience driver fatigue.
- Shift workers: Those who work evening shifts are more likely to be sleepy while they commute, making fatigue-related crashes several times more likely.
In many cases, driver fatigue simply results from a lack of sleep or from driving during a time of day when one would normally be asleep. There are a number of other factors that can come into play, however. These include:
- Level of activity: Driving on a long stretch of highway is not nearly as mentally stimulating as driving in a city. Driving on long, straight stretches of road can be incredibly boring, making it easier to fall asleep at the wheel.
- Sleep disorders: An untreated sleep disorder can make resting more difficult, thus making you more prone to fatigue while driving.
- Drugs: It is usually best not to drive while taking certain medications or while experiencing the aftereffects of sedatives since these can cause drowsiness.
It is very difficult to self-assess whether or not you are fatigued, particularly if you are already tired. In fact, the more fatigued you are, the more likely you are to feel confident in your ability to stay awake. While self-assessment is difficult, there are a few symptoms that you can watch out for. You are probably fatigued if you:
- Have difficulty maintaining focus
- Are less alert
- Have trouble keeping your eyes open or your head up
- Experience slower reaction time
- Exhibit poor judgment
- Start drifting in the lane
If you notice any of these symptoms while driving, chances are you are already heavily fatigued. Driving is very dangerous at this point since other, less noticeable side effects are already affecting your driving. These include impaired vision, difficulty processing information, and increased irritability and aggressive behavior.
The main way to prevent driver fatigue is by getting the right amount of quality sleep. In addition, taking time to pull over and nap can prevent an accident if you are drowsy behind the wheel. Finally, auto safety technologies can help prevent an accident if you start drifting off behind the wheel. The RD 140 offered by Safe Drive Systems provides warning signals when you start to veer out of your lane or when you get dangerously close to a car in front of you. For more information on SDS systems, contact us today.