Drowsy driving prevention week aims to reduce risk of Chicago car accidents

A new study reports that drowsy driving may be responsible for an increasing number of car accidents in Chicago and elsewhere. As the Los Angeles Times reported, if the driver beside you is not talking on his phone, texting, speeding or drunk, there is an increasing chance that he or she may be just barely awake.

The AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports that more than 2 in every 5 drivers admit to having fallen asleep while behind the wheel. One in 10 drivers say they have fallen asleep at the wheel in the last year.

One in 4 drivers said they have driven in the past month, despite being so tired they could barely keep their eyes open.

Our Chicago car accident attorneys frequently mention the dangers associated with distracted driving, speeding and drunk driving. But driver fatigue and drowsy driving deserve more attention. The problem could be even more acute with the early darkness and cold weather, which prompts drivers to roll up their windows, and turn up the heat inside their vehicles.

With this week being Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, safety advocates, including the National Sleep Foundation, are encouraging drivers to take seriously the threat drowsy driving poses to your own safety and to the safety of other motorists behind the wheel.

“Sleepiness decreases awareness, slows reaction time, and impairs judgment, just like drugs or alcohol, contributing to the possibility of a crash,” said AAA Foundation President Peter Kissinger. “We need to change the culture so that not only will drivers recognize the dangers of driving while drowsy but will stop doing it.”

A new analysis by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 1 in 6 fatal crashes involve drowsy driving, which would account for more than 5,500 deaths on the road each year. Additionally, the report found that drowsy driving is involved in 1 in 8 crashes that result in hospitalization and 1 in 14 crashes that result in a vehicle being towed from the scene.

“Many of us tend to underestimate the negative effects associated with fatigue and sleep deprivation and, conversely, overestimate our abilities to overcome them while driving,” said Kathleen Marvaso of AAA. “This data underscores the importance of educating drivers on the simple, yet effective steps they can take to prevent a possible tragedy. Unfortunately, too many drivers have adopted the ‘I’m tired, but I can make it’ mentality, often to their own peril or to the peril of others.”

Drivers should remain alert for symptoms of drowsy driving, which may include trouble keeping eyes open or focused, an inability to keep your head up, wandering thoughts or daydreaming, drifting out of your lane or tailgating.

AAA tips for remaining alert:

-Get at least six hours of sleep the night before a long trip.

-Schedule a break every 100 miles or two hours.

-Stay overnight rather than attempting to drive straight through.

-Drive during hours when you would normally be awake.

-Stop driving if you are sleepy.

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