Drowsy Driving – Risks, Regulations, and Prevention

Drowsy driving is responsible for a huge number of injuries and deaths each year. We have compiled a guide that will list off and explain drowsy driving risks and regulations that will help you avoid being caught in a traffic accident.

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Last Updated: Fri, August 9, 2019

Drowsy driving is responsible for a huge number of injuries and deaths each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (or NHTSA for short), over 100,000 collisions per year are caused by drowsiness and fatigue, directly or indirectly. This number translates to more than 1,500 deaths and over 40,000 injuries. And this is just in the United States! And yet, drowsy driving is often overlooked as a serious issue, as there is a worrying lack of awareness when it comes to all the risks involved, and the regulations that were put in place to control this problem.

Certain demographics are more susceptible to falling asleep at the wheel, and this puts them at increased risk of injuries, or worse. These include shift workers (these people often cannot maintain a stable sleeping schedule due to the ever-changing nature of their work schedule), young or inexperienced drivers, business travelers and more. There are a plethora of reasons why someone could be suffering from fatigue, but the risks are the same. Roads are not the safest place to be, so we’ve compiled a guide that will list off and explain drowsy driving risks and regulations that, if you’re aware of them, help you avoid being caught in a traffic accident.


Drowsy Driving Risks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated that 1 out of 25 drivers above the age of 18 reports falling asleep at the wheel in the last month. Upscale that to how big the population is, and you’ll get a rough idea of how many people have this issue.

Fatigue as a condition has a large variety of possible causes. These range from lack of sleep or an unhealthy diet plan to not enough physical activity (or too much physical activity), jet lag, or more serious health problems like anemia, heart disease or sleep apnea. To make matters worse, the medication used to treat a lot of these conditions can cause fatigue by itself, further complicating things. When you look at all these causes, it may seem like it’s very hard to avoid fatigue reliably – because it is.

When a person is suffering from drowsiness or fatigue, their performance in many aspects of life (including driving) downgrades to a worrying degree. While each person deals with fatigue slightly differently, some risks are consistently present across the board. Here’s a list of downsides that are especially relevant for drivers of any age:

As you can see, the downsides associated with drowsy driving can strengthen each other. All of it comes from fatigue, however, and thus we must put maximum effort into making sure we’re well-rested when we have to drive somewhere, even if it’s a routine trip like going to work.


Drowsy Driving-Related Laws and Regulations

Although it’s a slow process, a legislative effort has been made over the last decade to impose punishments and fines for drowsy drivers, often equating the offense to reckless driving or even manslaughter and negligent homicide. Staying awake for 18 hours straight is considered the same as having a blood alcohol content of 0.05 (the legal limit is 0.04 for commercial vehicles and 0.08 otherwise). Staying awake for 24 hours straight is considered the same as having a BAC of 0.10, strictly above legal limits. Drowsy driving is getting more and more acknowledgment over time, so let us examine exactly how severe the punishments for drowsy driving are in various states, and how the government has helped spread awareness about this issue.

Many bills have been proposed within the last decade, and there is no doubt that more are on the way. People are slowly becoming more aware of all the risks that come with fatigued driving, although how much positive change this will bring in is unclear.


Drowsy Driving Versus Drunk Driving

We’ve briefly covered this, but drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Depending on how long you stay awake before driving, it can legally count as having your performance equal to that of a drunk person. Let us look at what happens to a person while driving drunk. We won’t dwell on the individual points for too long, as this section is mainly here to show how similar the effects of fatigue and alcohol can be.

A drunk driver may suffer from any or all of the following issues:

Notice how similar the symptoms are. Depending on who you consult, they may even be identical. That’s why awareness is being spread about drowsy driving in an increasing number of states. A person driving while intoxicated has the same problems as a person who hasn’t had enough rest, and their punishments in the face of the law are becoming the same as well.


Drowsy Driving Prevention

So how do we deal with this issue? It’s virtually impossible to avoid all the pitfalls that can lead to fatigue since the causes are everywhere. The way most of us lead our lives, from work schedule to social activities, to childcare, doesn’t lend itself to having a healthy sleeping schedule. A simple night out or late work shift can single-handedly cause an accident, even if the chance is small. Here are some ways we can stay safer on the road by reducing the amount of fatigue we have to deal with regularly:


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Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic

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