What are the Risks of Fatigued Driving

Fatigued drivers have slower reaction times, and experience reduced awareness, attention, and ability to control their motor vehicles. As researchers continue to study the prominence and impact of fatigued driving on public health, drivers of all experience levels and ages need to educate themselves regarding the dangers of fatigued driving. 

Listed below are some of the most common causes and risks associated with drowsy driving and what can be done to prevent it. 

Causes of Fatigued Driving 

Fatigued driving is largely associated with poor sleep quality or lack of sleep, issues that can be fixed with proper medical intervention or education. 

● Being awake for many consecutive hours: Long hours without sleep prevents the body from resetting itself, resulting in a lack of concentration and causing delayed reaction times.

● Not getting plenty of sleep for multiple days: Many people believe they can compensate for sleep once they find the time. However, sleep deprivation is a cumulative issue, and it takes several weeks or days of quality and regular sleep to rectify the deficits. 

● Time of day: Drivers with regular sleep patterns tend to fall asleep behind the wheel during early morning (2 am to 6 am) and early afternoon (2 pm to 4 pm). These times are when the body’s circadian rhythm naturally declines, leading to reduced concentration and increased drowsiness. 

● Sleep disorders: Numerous sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, leads to restrictions and interruptions in a person’s sleep schedule. Several sleep disorders go unchecked and untreated, which can lead to daytime drowsiness. 

● Alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol can cause sleepiness while simultaneously impacting decision-making and reaction time, increasing the risk of accidents. 

Dangers of Fatigued Driving 

Even if you don’t fall asleep while driving, even driving sleep-deprived or fatigued can significantly increase your risk of being injured or killed in a motor accident. Various studies suggest that fatigue can lead to decreased psychomotor performance, affecting reaction time, short-term memory, and vigilance. 

These small delays in perceiving and reacting to things such as work zones, traffic patterns, stop signs, and other stimuli can be the difference between a close shave and a fatal crash. 

The National Safety Council states that fatigued drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a vehicle accident. The risk further increases when you consider factors like low visibility, weather conditions, or poor driving habits. Besides slowing down reaction time, drowsy driving also makes drivers more inattentive and more prone to making bad decisions or poor judgments.

Driving when sleep-deprived can impact your cognitive abilities and motor skills, which can be just as harmful as driving under the influence. When drivers experience a sleep debt, they may start dozing off when behind the wheel. 

This is also referred to as micro-sleeps, which are brief bouts of lost consciousness that can last around 5 to 30 seconds before gaining it back. A driver could potentially travel over a hundred yards while experiencing a microsleep, which is sufficient time to get involved in an accident without realizing it. 

How to Prevent Fatigued Driving 

Prevention of fatigued driving normally focuses on one of the 3 areas: personal responsibility, using safe-driving technology, and medical intervention. 

● Get plenty of rest: The minimum number of hours an adult should sleep is 7 to 9. Teenagers require more hours. Whether heading out for a morning commute or a long road trip, you should get the recommended amount before hitting the road. 

● Consume regular meals: Missing meals or eating at odd times can cause fatigue, especially while driving. Eat a light snack before driving instead of a heavy meal to prevent feelings of drowsiness. 

● Avoid driving during the drowsiest day: Your body’s natural clock will normally make you sleepier during early morning and afternoon, so try reducing your need to drive during those times. 

● Read medication labels: If you are on certain medications, you may not always be aware of their side effects. It is best to read the labels thoroughly and understand when to drive or not to drive after taking these medicines. 

● Use safe-driving technology: New and current safety technologies, such as Safe Driving Apps, lane departure warnings, and drowsiness alerts, can detect common fatiguing patterns and warn drivers to take a break or stay in their lane. 

● Avoid alcohol and sedatives before driving. Alcohol and other sedatives amplify the effects of fatigue and increase driving impairment. Avoid consuming them during peak sleep hours from midnight or late afternoon. 

Final Thoughts 

Driving when fatigued has many risk factors associated with it. As a responsible driver, you should take the appropriate measures to safeguard not only yourself but also others. If you are ever involved in a car accident due to the negligence of a fatigued driver, get in touch with a reputable personal injury lawyer who will be able to guide you through what to do after the accident and help you seek compensation.

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