After a long day of work, it’s easy to feel tired while you’re driving through commuter traffic. If you’re on a road trip, it can be very easy to feel tired as the sun sets and night driving begins to set in. Although these instances of drowsiness seem natural and ordinary, they can also be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
60% of adult drivers in the United States, or 168 million people, say that they have driven while feeling drowsy in the last year.
Driving drowsy is dangerous because the fatigue reduces the reaction times that someone has. Some liken it to driving while on autopilot. Your brain is in gear and controlling the vehicle, but the consciousness of a person isn’t really present. When an emergency occurs, then it is difficult to react. There’s also no test to measure how fatigued someone may be behind the wheel.
3 Fast Facts About Drowsy Driving Right Now
1. Two states, Missouri and Wisconsin, have no specific legal restrictions that prevent drowsy driving whatsoever.
2. It is estimated that drowsy driving costs consumers upwards of $12.5 billion every year in monetary losses.
3. More than 100k police-reported crashes that occur every year are estimated to be a direct result of driver fatigue every year.
Takeaway: How many times have you grabbed a Dr. Pepper or an energy drink, a couple snacks, and figured you’d be fine out on the road even though you were tired? Nothing substitutes for sleep, not even caffeine, which means driving drowsy occurs more often than people probably even realize. Any time you are feeling tired or exhausted and you get behind the wheel, you’re driving drowsy. With 71,000 injuries occurring every year because of drowsy driving and potentially 1,500 deaths or more, the time is now to start fixing this completely preventable problem on the roadways.
The Problem is Bigger Than Most People Realize
1. According to data from around the world, including Europe and Australia which have more in-depth reporting on accidents, up to 30% of the total crashes that occur on the roads can be attributed to drowsy driving.
2. About 1 million crashes are thought to occur every year because of a lapse of attention from the driver.
3. In a recent survey of US drivers, 37% of them admitted to falling asleep while driving. That’s a total of 103 million people.
4. 13% of people who say they fell asleep behind the wheel had this happen within the last 30 days.
5. 4% of people, or 11 million drivers, stated that they either had an accident or just missed having one because they were too tired to drive or even fell asleep.
6. The 18-29 age demographic is the most likely to choose to drive drowsy, with 71% of drivers admitting that they would do so.
7. Men are 11% more likely to drive drowsy than women and adults who have children in their home are 14% more likely to drive drowsy than adults without children.
Takeaway: The amount of sleep that someone gets or the lack of it builds up in a bank. If you consistently don’t get enough sleep, then you’re increasing the risk of a drowsy driving related crash every time you sit behind the wheel of your vehicle. Although it is completely understandable why people choose to get behind the wheel because they’re feeling tired, from a late night studying for class or because the 3 month old was up screaming all night, these risks also put others at risk when the decision is made to drive.
How Much Sleep Deprivation Does it Take?
1. Adults who got 6 or 7 hours of sleep on average every night are twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving accident compared to people who get 8 hours of sleep or more per night.
2. Shift workers are more likely to experience a drowsy driving related accident compared with regular day shift works by 11%.
3. People who get less than 5 hours of sleep the night before increase their chances of being in an accident by up to 5 times those who got at least 8 hours of sleep.
4. 42% of people admit that when they get tired, they are more likely to become stressed. 32% also stated that they become impatient as well.
5. 12% of people stated that they tend to drive faster when they are feeling tired.
6. Only 1 out of 5 drivers said that they would pull over to the side of the road to take a nap if they were feeling fatigued behind the wheel.
7. 96% of drivers feel that it is important to include information about drowsy driving on licensing exams.
Takeaway: Drowsy driving is being taken more seriously than ever before because it is happening more often than ever before. It isn’t just the multimillion dollar lawsuits that are coming out of a negligence case from drowsy driving that are making headlines. Drivers who are shown to have been drowsy at the time of an accident are facing jail sentences on a regular basis. The peak times for an accident to occur, from 12am to 2am, 4am to 6am, and 2pm to 4pm, coincide with the peak times that people are most likely to drive drowsy. 23% of adults say that they know someone who has had an accident because they fell asleep at the wheel.
A Final Thought…
1. Almost 30% of people state that they have driven to work while feeling drowsy at least a few times per month.
2. 12% of drivers state they drive drowsy a few times per week.
3. People who live in urban areas are 7% more likely to experience an accident caused by drowsy driving than those living in rural areas.
Takeaway: It makes sense that higher population centers would increase the chances of a drowsy driving accident since there will be more drivers. Yet drowsy driving in a rural area is equally dangerous because trees create as much of an impact as another driver. Before getting behind the wheel, make sure you’ve had enough sleep so you can stay safe.