Keeping our roads safe is a priority. This is why there are government initiatives, programs, and media campaigns dedicated to making our roads as safe as possible.
Discussions about road safety tend to focus on issues such as impaired and distracted driving and how health conditions can affect someone’s ability to drive, but the risks associated with drowsy driving often get overlooked. Everyone drives when they are tired, right? After all, don’t we do most tasks when we are tired these days?
As with other tasks, a lack of sleep can seriously affect your driving skills. It’s a bigger issue than most people realize, and many tend to underestimate the impact that a lack of sleep can have on someone’s ability to make decisions while driving. According to DrowsyDriving.org, “studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%.”
Since most drivers underestimate the importance of sleep and its impact on our ability to drive, we tend to overestimate our driving skills when we are tired. Even though many drivers admit they are tired when driving, many don’t think that being tired is a big issue, but the statistics about driving while tired show that this is not something that should be overlooked.
A report published by the National Sleep Foundation states that “approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes annually (about 1.5% of all crashes) involve drowsiness/fatigue as a principal causal factor. A conservative estimate of related fatalities is 1,500 annually or 4% of all traffic crash fatalities. At least 71,000 people are injured in fall-asleep crashes each year.” The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that crashes due to fatigue result in $12.5 billion in annual losses.
Unlike impaired driving, there is no test to determine a person’s level of sleepiness, leaving it up to drivers to determine whether they are okay to drive. How do you determine your level of tiredness? Is it the number of hours of sleep you had the previous night?
Determining your ability to drive and your level of fatigue needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Many people function well on five hours of sleep per night, while other people need their eight hours of rest.
Before you drive, ask yourself the following questions to determine your level of tiredness:
Driving when you are tired is dangerous and can reduce your ability to:
Self-assessment is the most effective way to determine whether you are rested enough to drive safely. Part of this assessment is understanding the warning signs and symptoms of tiredness. If you notice any of the following signs, it may be a good idea to rest before driving, or if you are already on the road, it is a good idea to take a break:
Certain groups of drivers are at greatest risk of drowsy driving, including:
Here are some tips to help make sure you are energized and alert when driving:
Know your body, understand the signs of tiredness, and avoid driving if you think fatigue will impair your ability to drive safely. We can all take steps to be more conscious and safe drivers.