Understanding the risks of drowsy driving

Driving while fatigued needs to be prevented because it can lead to poor decision making, slow reactions and inattentiveness on the road.

Many Illinois drivers know about the risks of getting behind the wheel after drinking, but not everyone is aware that driving while tired can be just as hazardous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 6,000 fatal car crashes across the country result from drowsy driving each year.

The potential hazards

The risks associated with drowsy driving are alarmingly similar to those of driving under the influence. The reason driving while fatigued is so dangerous is because it can lead to the following:

  • Poor decision making
  • Increased inattentiveness
  • Slow reactions
  • Falling asleep

Even if drowsiness does not lead to falling asleep behind the wheel, it could still cause a traffic incident. For example, an exhausted driver might choose to make a left turn when the oncoming traffic is too close, which can result in a crash.

The factors

Not everyone will drive while sleepy, but some groups are more susceptible. For example, people with untreated sleeping disorders, shift workers, commercial drivers and patients on new medication are more likely to be involved in drowsy driving.

Driving while sleepy is more likely to take place in the middle of the night or early morning, but can happen any time of day. For example, older drivers are at a higher risk for getting fatigued behind the wheel in the middle of the afternoon. However, young men between the ages of 18 and 39 are typically the ones involved in sleep-related accidents during the late night and early morning hours, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The signs

It can be challenging for a bystander to detect someone who is driving while tired, but the driver and passengers can all be on the lookout for telltale signs of fatigue. Often, a tired driver will yawn frequently, have heavy eyelids and drift between lanes unintentionally. The drivers themselves may be unable to remember the last few miles of road or continually miss street signs.

The prevention

Many people on the road choose to listen to the radio at high volumes or roll the windows down to keep fatigue away. However, these tactics may not be enough to prevent the injuries that could take place while driving tired. Instead, drivers should try to get a full night's rest, which is roughly 7 to 8 hours for adults, before getting behind the wheel. When going long distances, it is always advisable to travel with passengers and take turns driving when possible. Anyone on a road trip should try to stop during the night in order to get proper rest.

Driving on Illinois roads while fatigued can lead to car accidents. If a car crash happens because of drunk driving, drowsy driving or plain neglect, it can be beneficial to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.