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Steven M. Lee, PC

Q:
How often do fatigued drivers cause accidents? Should I be worried?

A:

 

How often have you sat down to watch a movie only to pass out within twenty minutes? How many times have you sworn up and down that you’re not tired, only to zone out in the middle of a conversation?

There’s no point trying to fool yourself; it happens to everyone. Fatigue can sneak up on you faster than your mother-in-law’s birthday—and that’s natural.

Drowsiness is a biological warning that tells you when your brain needs to process the day’s events, replenish energy (glycogen) levels, and increase protein production for cell growth. Regrettably, these tasks can’t get accomplished while you’re awake, when your brain is required to react continuously to whatever it is you’re doing instead of sleeping. Therefore, when you deny your brain the opportunity to replenish itself, it retaliates by shutting down parts of your body. As a result, you become disoriented and sluggish, and your focus and concentration drastically decrease the more drowsy you become. Eventually, if you don’t voluntarily succumb, you’ll simply pass out.

Although this cause and effect process guarantees your brain the time to do its thing, if you’re not prepared, you could wind up falling asleep in precarious situations—like while you’re driving.

Driver Fatigue: Understanding the Problem

Fatigued driving isn’t a criminal—or even a glaringly obvious—offense. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what makes it so problematic. Many otherwise responsible people believe that driving while a little sleepy isn’t a big deal. In comparison with driving while impaired, drowsy driving is just a little annoying, right? It’s not like it’s going to get someone killed, will it?

It just might. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver fatigue is responsible for over 80,000 car accidents each year, and more than 800 of them prove to be fatal. Why so many? Precisely because drivers don’t see the danger. They don’t recognize that fatigue can exhibit the same risks as driving drunk.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, impairing symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Slowed reaction times.
  • Impaired judgment and vision.
  • Decreased attention span.
  • Increased moodiness, paranoia, and aggressive behavior.
  • Inability to process information.
  • Memory loss.
  • Dizziness.
  • Slowed reflexes; it may feel as though you’re moving in slow motion.
  • Increased paranoia.

If you don’t recognize the signs before they take control of your body, you could put yourself and others at great risk. Unfortunately, drowsiness tends to show its symptoms quickly and without much warning.

Danger, Van Winkle, Danger!—Why Drowsy Driving Is Hazardous

The very nature of drowsy driving is that it sneaks up on you. When drivers acknowledge the risk of fatigued driving, they mostly believe that the danger lies in falling dead asleep at the wheel. However, most incidences of drowsy driving involve a concept known as “microsleep.” Microsleep occurs when the driver drifts off for about five seconds before jerking himself back awake. In many cases, the driver doesn’t even realize that he nodded off. However, five seconds on the highway is enough time to travel the length of an entire football field and place everyone in that stretch at risk.

Safety and Prevention

Fatigue is a stealthy danger—you will never know when you’ve reached your breaking point until it happens. When you begin to feel tired, get off the road. Don’t ever try to push yourself past your limits. Remember, there’s only one cure for lack of sleep, and that is more sleep. Overdosing on caffeine or splashing water on your face may seem to work for a brief time, but when your brain needs sleep, no amount of bartering will make it change its mind.

Car accident attorney Steve Lee, encourages you to protect yourself, your passengers, and your fellow travelers by avoiding drowsy driving. Pay attention for signs of fatigue, and if you begin to feel woozy or tired, pull over or change drivers to avoid potential tragedy.

Please, share this page with your loved ones so they can also learn the risks they take when they choose to ignore the dangers of fatigue. It’s the only sure way to be safe.

Steven M. Lee
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