Driving While Drowsy: A Bigger Threat Than Previously Thought

Driving While Drowsy: A Bigger Threat Than Previously Thought

We should all know we can’t perform well if we don’t get enough sleep. It can be hard to concentrate, you become forgetful, and tasks become more difficult. What makes us think we can drive well in South Carolina while drowsy?

The most in-depth research ever conducted in the U.S. about vehicle accidents and sleepy drivers found that the share of accidents involving drowsy drivers is almost eight times greater than prior federal government estimates, reports the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Researchers used video recordings of the expressions of drivers’ faces in the three minutes before an accident occurred. By measuring the time a driver’s eyes are closed, the researchers estimate that 9.5% of all accidents and 10.8% of vehicle crashes causing significant property damage involved drowsy drivers. Earlier estimates put drowsiness as a role in only one to two percent of crashes.

It’s difficult to determine whether drowsiness was an issue after a crash (other than by an admission by a driver); drowsy driving is one of the most under-reported safety issues. This new research, which was released in February, uses the analysis of dash-cam video from more than 700 crashes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 35% of U.S. drivers get less than the recommended number of hours of sleep per day (a minimum of seven hours). In a related AAA Foundation survey, almost all drivers surveyed (96%) stated that drowsy driving is a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior. But 29% admitted they did it anyway.

If you’re missing some sleep but driving anyway, here are some warning signs of drowsiness you should be aware of:

  • Difficulty keeping your eyes open
  • Drifting in and out of lanes
  • Being unable to recall the last few miles you drove.

Instead of risking an accident due to not getting enough sleep, we should make getting at least seven hours of sleep a priority before hitting the road. If you’re driving while sleepy, you could drink coffee, roll down windows and play loud music to try to stay awake … but if you drive long enough, your need to sleep will take over.

The AAA offers these suggestions:

  • Travel when you are normally awake.
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal before driving.
  • Avoid medications that may cause drowsiness or another impairment.

If you’re driving a long distance …

  • Take a break every two hours or every 100 miles.
  • Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving.
  • Go to a rest stop and take a nap (twenty to thirty minutes) when you get tired, which can help you stay more alert.

As much as we feel a need to drive places and accomplish things, our safety and the safety of others should be our priority. You don’t want that errand or trip to end in the hospital.

The Louthian Law Firm has represented injured South Carolinians in car accident lawsuits since 1959. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident, it’s important to make sure that you understand your legal rights. South Carolina law can be complex, and there is a deadline for filing a claim. The initial consultation is always free, so reach out to us today by calling us at 1-803-454-1200 or by filling out our online contact form.