Drowsy driving, also known as fatigued driving, occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle while feeling excessively tired or sleepy. It can lead to impaired motor skills and even reduced cognitive abilities, increasing the risk of accidents. In these ways, it is similar to drunk driving.
Why does it happen? Part of the issue is just that people often do not see fatigue as a reason to pull over in the same way they would with alcohol impairment. They continue trying to drive even when it’s apparent that they are far too tired to do so safely.
Lack of sleep
The most common reason for fatigued driving is simple: Failing to get enough sleep. A consistent lack of sleep can lead to fatigue and sleepiness all day long, as can poor-quality sleep. Someone who is spending 16 hours a day at the office while trying to finish up a project, is going to be more likely to cause a drowsy driving accident than someone who put in a standard day at the office after getting good sleep the night before.
Conditions like sleep apnea, insomnia and narcolepsy can disrupt sleep patterns, making individuals more prone to drowsy driving. Even simply being sick with a cold could mean that someone doesn’t get the solid sleep that they need. But chronic sleep issues are even more problematic.
Irregular work hours
Shift workers, people with irregular work schedules, or those working long hours are at a higher risk of drowsy driving because their sleep patterns are often disrupted. For instance, someone who works during the night may try to sleep during the day, but they may realistically not get the eight hours of sleep they need each day.
Certain medications, such as sedatives, antihistamines and some prescription drugs, can cause drowsiness as a side effect, making driving dangerous. It’s very important for drivers to consider whether or not they can operate heavy machinery safely after taking these medications.
What if an accident happens?
To prevent drowsy driving, it’s essential to prioritize sleep, maintain a consistent sleep schedule and be aware of the signs of fatigue. Unfortunately, not everyone does this, and drowsy drivers continue to cause accidents. Those who are injured must know what legal options they have available as they may be in a strong position to seek compensation for medical bills and other costs.