Driving while tired can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol and can increase the driver’s risk of causing an auto accident. The effects of sleep deprivation on the body are similar to how it reacts when alcohol has been consumed. Staying awake for 24 hours straight and then driving would be like getting behind the wheel with a .10 blood alcohol level, which is .02 over the .08 limit for operating a motor vehicle.
Risks of Driving While Tired
Tired driving is responsible for approximately 100,000 auto accidents every year and causes 40,000 injuries. One in six of these accidents will result in a fatality. While driving while under the influence of alcohol is against the law, driving while tired falls into a gray area. After working long hours or getting insufficient sleep, tired drivers risk their own safety and that of everyone else on the road. Drivers who are most at risk for driving tired include young male drivers, shift workers, business travelers, and drivers who take medications that can cause drowsiness.
Know the Signs of Tired Driving
Drivers who begin to experience symptoms of driver fatigue should pull off to a safe area and take a nap when signs of tired or drowsy driving appear. Such signs include:
- Frequent yawning and difficulty keeping eyes open or feeling the need to rub eyes often
- Head bobbing, nodding off, or difficulty holding head up
- Problems keeping focused on driving
- Zoning out and not remembering the last few miles driving
- Difficulty staying in a driving lane
- Riskier driving behaviors, including ignoring traffic signs, tailgating or speeding
As signs of tired driving increase, drivers could experience periods of micro-sleep where they might suddenly doze off. When this happens, they could suddenly veer off the road or crash into another vehicle.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding driving late at night can help reduce the chance of causing a car accident related to tired driving. When driving long distances, drivers should schedule in regular breaks every two hours to walk around and refresh themselves or share driving duties with their traveling companions.
When tired, the safest bet is to stop driving and get rest. The time delay and expense to rent a hotel room can be well worth it when compared to the costs associated with having a car accident.