The Dangers of Drowsy Driving and How to Avoid It

Whether you have lost sleep due to a new baby waking every couple of hours or a late work shift, fatigue has very costly effects. Drowsy driving is a serious problem out on the roads. Each year, drowsy driving accounts for thousands of accidents, many of which are fatal. But how do you know if you’re drowsy driving? And can you be cited for it? Read on to find out. 

How do you know if you’re drowsy driving?

Goldie Hawn, seemingly participating in drowsy driving.
Goldie Hawn driving a car | Jason Kirk via Getty Images

There are a few signs that you may be drowsy behind the wheel. First and foremost, if you find yourself yawning frequently or struggling to keep your eyes open, pull over and rest. Other signs include missing your exit, veering out of your lane, or having trouble remembering the last few miles you’ve driven. If you experience any of these signs, the best idea would be to look for a safe place to pull over and take a nap.

Can you be cited for drowsy driving? 

The short answer is yes. In most states, drowsy driving is considered careless or reckless, both punishable offenses. In some states, drowsy driving can even be considered a DUI if it can be proven that your lack of sleep impaired your driving ability.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “NHTSA’s census of fatal crashes and estimate of traffic-related crashes and injuries rely on police and hospital reports to determine the incidence of drowsy-driving crashes. NHTSA estimates that in 2017, 91,000 police-reported crashes involved drowsy drivers. These crashes led to an estimated 50,000 people injured and nearly 800 deaths.”

Tips for avoiding drowsy driving 

Of course, the best way to avoid drowsy driving is to get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night to function at their best during the day. If you already know you have a long day of driving ahead, plan ahead. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before hitting the road. 

In addition to getting enough sleep, there are a few key things you can do to avoid drowsy driving:

  1. Avoid drinking alcohol before driving. Even if you don’t feel drunk, alcohol can impair your judgment and reaction time.
  2. Avoid medications that make you drowsy. If you must take them, make sure someone else is available to drive or use public transportation.
  3. Take breaks every two hours or so on long trips to stand up, rest, and stretch your legs.
  4. Try to avoid driving during the peak sleepiness periods: midnight—6 a.m. and late afternoon.

Avoid driving tired and stay safe on the roads

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Drowsy driving is a severe problem that can have devastating consequences. However, by following a few simple tips, you can avoid becoming a statistic. The next time you start to feel sleepy behind the wheel, remember to pull over and take a break. Your life, or someone else’s, may depend on it.