Specific circumstances, occupations and health issues can put you at higher risk for drowsy driving. But in reality we are all at risk from sharing the road with drowsy drivers.
While night drivers are at highest risk from drowsy drivers, statistics also show a surprising spike in mid afternoon.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates 56,000 crashes a year are caused by drowsy drivers, including 1,550 fatal crashes.
Specific risk groups include young people, especially males under 25; commercial drivers, especially long-haul truckers where drowsy driving is blamed for 15 percent of all heavy truck crashes; business travelers and people with health problems or sleep disorders.
The rest of us can put ourselves at higher risk. Risk factors include, sleep deprivation and fatigue (6 hours of sleep or less per night); insomnia and poor sleep quality; driving long distances without proper rest breaks; driving through the night, near sundown, during mid-afternoon or when you would normally be asleep; taking sedatives like antidepressants and cold medicines; working more than 60 hours a week or working shift work; and drinking even small amounts of alcohol.
Signs you are a drowsy driver, according the the National Sleep Foundation:
* Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
* Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
* Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
* Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
* Trouble keeping your head up
* Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
* Feeling restless and irritable
Before hitting the road, drivers should:
* Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep experts recommend between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
* Plan to drive long trips with a companion. Passengers can help look for early warning signs of fatigue or switch drivers when needed. Passengers should stay awake to talk to the driver.
* Schedule regular stops, every 100 miles or two hours.
* Avoid alcohol and medications that may impair performance. Alcohol interacts with fatigue, increasing its effects – just like drinking on an empty stomach.
* Consult your physician or a local sleep disorders center for diagnosis and treatment if you suffer frequent daytime sleepiness, often have difficulty sleeping at night, and/or snore loudly every night.
If you or someone you love has been in a car accident, the Chicago car accident lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.