The Washington State University-Spokane Sleep and Performance Research Center's very own researcher, Hans Van Dongen, Ph.D, recently spoke about the dangers of driving while drowsy at a conference held by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is becoming a significant issue in the U.S., and Spokane residents are cautioned against it.
It is important to know the dangers of driving while drowsy, and how to drive safely with less-than-the-recommended sleep.
Driving While Drowsy
The exact definition of ‘driving while drowsy' is when an individual drives while fatigued or sleep deprived. However, the amount of sleeplessness or fatigue required to affect an individual's ability to safely drive depends on the person. For this reason, drivers should know when they have not had enough sleep, and when their fatigue is a danger to themselves and those around them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the effects of drowsiness on driving as:
- The inability to pay full attention to the road;
- The inability to make last-minute and safe driving decisions; and,
- A decreased reaction time.
Who is at Risk of Drowsy Driving?
There are some drivers who are more prone to driving while drowsy than others. Individuals with irregular sleep schedules or those who have jobs or live commitments preventing uninterrupted sleep are more likely to regularly drive while drowsy. Examples of individuals at higher risk of drowsy driving include:
- Tractor trailer, tow truck, bus and service vehicle drivers.
- Those with sleep disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
- Workers who perform shift work, especially night shifts.
- Drivers who take medications that may induce drowsiness.
The same report by the CDC cautions that anyone who regularly gets less than six hours of sleep is more likely to drive while drowsy, or fall asleep while driving.
Prevention and Dangers
The best way to prevent driving while drowsy is to get at least seven hours per sleep each night, which includes sticking to healthy sleeping habits. However, for some individuals, this is not so simple. Those with sleeping disorders or other issues preventing them from having a regular sleep schedule should talk to a physician about their options.
Drowsy driving significantly increases the risk of falling asleep while driving, which can cause fatal auto accidents. Drivers who notice they are yawning frequently, drifting in and out of lanes, or hitting rumble strips should pull over and take a nap, or change drivers.
In the case of an auto accident caused by drowsy driving, whether you are the victim or the cause of the accident, always make sure to call an experienced auto accident attorney.
Spokane Auto Accident Attorney
West Law Office provides quality, tailored legal services to every client. Our practice areas include auto accidents and personal injury, as well as DUIs and related criminal traffic misdemeanors. A knowledgeable attorney when dealing with auto accidents provides peace of mind and alleviates the stress that comes with these cases.
When it comes to an auto accident, especially when injuries are involved, contact us online or via phone at 509-993-0748 for professional representation. We also offer free consultations, helping you achieve the best outcome in your case.