You are probably able to spot a driver who appears to be drunk: someone who is weaving, following the car ahead too closely, perhaps slowing down then suddenly speeding up. However, a drowsy motorist can drive just as erratically and be just as dangerous as someone driving under the influence of alcohol. In a National Sleep Foundation survey, 37 percent of respondents admitted to having fallen asleep while driving. Unfortunately, this is easy to do because fatigue is sneaky, it can creep up on you before you know it.
Yawning may be the first warning sign of fatigue. You might find yourself daydreaming and have trouble remembering what, if anything, happened over the last few miles. Did you go through a stop sign or a traffic light? Did you miss a turn off? Now you may find you are having difficulty focusing. You begin blinking in an attempt to clear your vision, and soon your eyelids start to droop. These are classic warning signs of fatigue setting in, and it would be best that you stop driving. The ideal solution would be to find a safe place to park for a bit and take a nap-a well-lighted rest stop would be perfect. If this is not possible, at least stop to get a cup of coffee or an energy drink. Remember, however, that while these may help you feel more alert, the effects will be short-lived.
The best defense against driver fatigue is to get adequate sleep before starting out. Avoid drinking alcohol and taking any kind of medication that may make you sleepy or dull your reflexes. Also, if you have a teenager of driving age, remember that teens often do not get sufficient sleep at the time their biological need increases, so extra vigilance behind the wheel will be critical.
Drowsiness can be caused by many things. A crying baby may have kept you awake much of the night. You may have health issues, or perhaps you are tired because you worked the night shift. Did you know that most car accidents caused by drowsy driving occur late at night or late in the afternoon? This is often because sleep is regulated by your circadian rhythm, or internal clock, which takes a dip during these time periods and can make you feel sleepy to one degree or another. Many accidents of this type also occur on rural roads or highways.
Many drowsy driver-related accidents only involve a single vehicle. While investigators are called to the site of a car crash to look for clues as to what caused it, evidence of driver fatigue is not always found. Researchers are working on finding new ways to measure the impact of drowsy driving so as to help reduce the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. If you have been hurt as the result of a crash involving driver fatigue, an attorney experienced with personal injury cases is standing by to help.