Driving with maximum attention still has its fair share of safety precautions, so there is no doubt that driving while drowsy comes with a unique level of accountability. A person should never drive if they feel as though they are going to fall asleep behind the wheel.
Most people do not expect that when they get their license to drive, they would have to worry about falling asleep while driving, yet that is what some individuals have to face. Still, each individual who holds a California license is expected to uphold standard safety precautions when it comes to driving, yet some might find themselves dosing off behind the wheel.
While some people might reason that their destination is only a few minutes or miles away, and they could just push through their exhaustion, this reasoning is faulty for various reasons, namely, safety. How can we avoid falling asleep behind the wheel? Before we answer that question, Raynes | Erickson is going to consider the importance of not driving while drowsy, common causes of drowsy driving, warning signs of drowsy driving, and how to prevent drowsy driving.
Why You Shouldn’t Drive While Drowsy
As we stated earlier, a person should never drive if they feel as though they are going to fall asleep behind the wheel. However, some people are not aware of the high amount of danger associated with drowsy driving. Even if your destination is not far, it is still important to understand the dangers of driving while drowsy—not just for your safety, but also for the safety of those around you. Driving while drowsy:
- Decreases your levels of coherence and ability to pay attention to the road and your surroundings. This could result in numerous dangerous situations such as unwillingly veering into another lane or off the road, missing important traffic controls such as a change in the traffic pattern or construction zone, and other things.
- Slows your reaction time if you have to brake or steer suddenly. When we are tired, we simply are not all there, so to speak. Our vision could become blurry, our breathing could become slowed, our speech could become slurred, and our overall performance could be seriously affected. Unfortunately, being behind the wheel does not change these symptoms of tiredness.
- Affects your ability to make good decisions. Sometimes, driving on the road calls for us to make smart decisions as drivers. Whether we need to make the decision to change lanes, slow down, speed up, or let another driver pass us by, these decisions ultimately affect how safe we are when we drive. When we are tired, our ability to make these decisions is often overridden by our mind’s desire to sleep. When we sleep, we are not in a decision-making mentality; in fact, our mind might be programmed to do the exact opposite when we feel the need to sleep!
Drowsy Driving: Warning Signs
- Yawning or blinking frequently.
- Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven.
- Drifting from your lane.
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road.
- Missing your exit without realizing it until after.
If you experience any of these warning signs, pull over to rest or change drivers if applicable. Some people opt to blast music or open all the windows for ventilation. While these could create loudness, they are not the most effective ways to keep you alert. If you are sleeping, the best thing to do will be to pull over in a safe place and get some rest. We will discuss this further in this article.
Common Causes of Drowsy Driving
Falling asleep while driving is a common cause of accidents. Alcohol, long times behind the wheel, overwork, stress, and even medical conditions can cause drivers to fall asleep. Understanding who is most likely to fall asleep while driving could help better understand the common causes of drowsy driving.
- Drivers who do not get enough sleep.
- Commercial drivers who operate vehicles such as tow trucks, tractor-trailers, and buses.
- Shift workers (who work the night shift or long shifts).
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, where breathing repeatedly stops and starts.
- Drivers who use medications that make them sleepy.
The common denominator between these demographics is 1) working long or late hours 2) having a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea or 3) drivers who use certain medications.
The fact of the matter is: falling asleep at the wheel is preventable!
While it could seem like there is no way out of driving drowsy especially if one of the common causes of driving is work- or health-related, there are still practical steps that could be taken to make sure you are driving as safe and well-rested as possible.
- Get enough sleep! Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a day, while teens need at least 8 hours and developing good sleeping habits, such as sticking to a sleep schedule or taking naps, could help.
- If you have a sleep disorder or have symptoms of a sleep disorder such as snoring or feeling sleepy during the day, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or taking medications that make you sleepy, or take your medications during a time when you will be able to nap at some point during the day or your work break. Be sure to check the label on any medications or talk to your pharmacist.
We recognize that sleeping is simply not something that could easily be controlled especially if circumstances create exhaustion for you. The best suggestion when it comes to preventing drowsy driving would be to pull over for a short nap in a safe place, such as a lighted, designated rest stop. Sometimes, if we are tired, we just need to let our body rest for a period of time. This will give our mind and body the break it is seeking so that when we wake up, our mind and body will be more alert.
We can help keep California roads safe and we can avoid drowsy driving car accidents by changing our attitudes about drowsy driving!
While drivers who decide to drive while tired might not intentionally be acting maliciously or with premeditation, their decision nevertheless is negligent and irresponsible. Every driver owes a duty of reasonable care to others on the road and drivers who get behind the wheel when they are drowsy or overly fatigued are almost always said to violate that duty when they end up causing an accident because of their tired condition.
If you encounter another driver exhibiting signs of drowsy driving or other erratic behavior, such as swerving between lanes, avoid them and maintain a safe distance. If possible, contact the authorities and report the driver and provide the vehicle make, model, and license number as well as your location.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to a car accident caused by someone’s drowsy driving, the attorney you choose can most certainly affect the outcome of your case. Contact Raynes | Erickson to speak with a member of the firm if you have questions.