When it comes to listing the causes of road accidents, driver fatigue turns out to be amongst the common ones. You may have experienced it once or more while driving long distances, though it can happen even during shorter trips. The offense may be less serious than drunk driving but the consequences can be equally dangerous. Drowsy driving can, in fact, be fatal for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Avoiding it, therefore, can be life-saving as it reduces the possibilities of road accidents to a considerable extent. Hence, it becomes vital to understand driver fatigue statistics, the causes of drowsy driving, and the measures you can take to avoid it.
Driver fatigue statistics
Studies by National Sleep Foundation indicate that nearly half of U.S. adult drivers admit that they get behind the wheel even when they feel drowsy. About 20% of them admit that they fell asleep while driving at some point in the past year and more than 40% say that they have experienced the same at least once in their driving career.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that as many as 100,000 automobile crashes and 40,000 injuries occur annually because of drowsy driving. Now that you see these alarming statistics, you will obviously want to know more about driver fatigue symptoms and precautions.
Symptoms that you should be vigilant about
Driver fatigue does not happen in minutes; rather it takes time to set in. If you are traveling long-distance, you are more likely to encounter it. But this does not make short drives any safer because you are still at risk if already tired. Even before talking about the ways to avoid drowsy driving, you need to understand its symptoms. Here are the ones that you should be watchful about:
- Tired of burning eyes
- Drooping eyes
- Constant yawning
- Aching back or hips
- Stiffness and cramps
- Absence of concentration
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, never hit the road in the first place. In case they happen when you are already on road, take a break and pull over to the nearest place where you can get some rest. It would be a good idea to stop at a motel if you are driving overnight.
Impact of fatigue on driving
If you drive when extremely tired, your reaction time slows down and the concentration levels decrease as well. Further, you may also experience impaired judgment. In the worst-case scenario, you may sleep off behind the wheel, which can be very dangerous. This increases the probability of a mishap manifold and you may end up looking for a car accident lawyer to handle your case.
The latter becomes essential if someone gets hurt and files an accident case for claiming compensation. Additionally, there is also a chance of serious injuries to you and the co-passengers. Wouldn’t it be better to take the best measures to avoid driver fatigue in the first place? Obviously, yes!
Ways to prevent drowsy driving
However dangerous the implications of driver fatigue may be, the good news is that it is still avoidable. Primarily, a good night’s sleep before a long road trip is where it all starts. Further, you can take the following steps to prevent drowsy driving and minimize the possibility of accidents.
- Avoid traveling for more than 8-10 hours of the day because being behind the wheel for a long time drains you physically and mentally.
- Take regular breaks on long-distance trips, at least every two hours. If driving overnight, do halt the trip overnight whether you feel drowsy or not.
- Eat light and drink plenty of water on road trips. Light and healthy meals keep your energy levels up while the water keeps you hydrated.
- If you are not traveling alone and the passenger is an experienced driver, ask them to alternate driving with you.
- Unless it’s completely necessary, do not travel at the time you would usually be sleeping.
- Take a 15-minute power nap behind the wheel if you feel sleepy. Just pull over at a safe point and do it.
- As a rule of thumb, do not drink alcohol while driving, and teach your kids that drunk driving is unacceptable too. Besides being unlawful, alcohol can contribute to fatigue even if you drink a small amount.
Avoid becoming one of the driving fatigue statistics
These simple precautions can prevent driver fatigue to a considerable extent and make road trips much safer for you. The effort involved is minimal but they can save lives on the road. So make sure that you follow them every time you hit the road, whether driving just around the block or traveling on the highway.