While drinking and driving is linked to a higher risk of having a car accident, drowsy driving has also been shown to play a major role. Sleep deprivation has a variety of effects on the mind and our behavior. The impairments faced by people who are sleep deprived are enough to significantly reduce important driving skills. Several drowsy driving accidents happen at night, after a driver has been on the road for several hours. Consider talking with a Tennessee car accident lawyer if you suffered personal injuries from a negligent driver.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation happens when people receive less than seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Everyone needs a certain amount of sleep because the body’s sleep cycle works according to a biological clock that works with biochemical mechanisms. Any disruption to this natural sleep cycle can lead to drowsiness during the day while the body and mind attempt to catch up on lost sleep.
A lack of sleep has been shown to lead to day-time fatigue which can impair driving performance with decreased attention, reaction time, memory, psychomotor coordination, and decision-making. Reaction time and attention to the road are key factors for safe driving. Poor psychomotor coordination and low response time can prevent a driver from evading a last-minute turn, car, or object on the road. Falling asleep at the wheel is also a common problem that leads to car accidents.
Many people may not believe this, but research has actually shown that drowsy driving causes greater impairments than alcohol. At the very least, drowsy driving can have the same effects as driving with a high blood-alcohol concentration (BAC).
Prevalence of Drowsy Driving Accidents
In 2013 alone, drowsy driving led to 72,000 crashes, 44,000 personal injuries, and 800 deaths. 4% of people reported falling asleep at the wheel within the past month. Drowsy driving accidents remain a serious issue today with most drivers who crash driving with less than six hours of sleep.
Drivers, passengers, and other people driving on the road are at risk when someone decides to drive while sleep-deprived. Many young adults have driven at night to another city, but did not make it there because they fell asleep at the wheel. If you ever feel tired while driving at night or even during the day, pull over. Driving somewhere on time is not worth your life.
There are other alternatives to driving while sleep-deprived. Take someone else with you who can take turns driving with you. Take a power nap before you head off. If you need to use caffeine or energy drinks, do so as a last resort because the sugar crash may lead to a sudden onset of fatigue.