The vast majority of car crashes are the result of drivers making bad choices. They don’t use their turn signals or try to read a text message while driving. They get behind the wheel after drinking despite knowing the risks or exceed the posted speed limit significantly without regard for the possible impact on other people.
You might already watch out for drunk drivers or for signs that someone has their phone in their hands at the wheel. What you may not realize is that drowsy drivers also cause tens of thousands of crashes every year.
If you saw someone yawning in traffic, that is as good of a reason to give their vehicle plenty of space as a phone in their hand.
How common is drowsy driving?
Many people in the United States openly admit to being spread too thin and not getting enough sleep. They work overtime before racing to attend to their child’s swim meet, only to stay up incredibly late putting together a project for work and then repeating it all the next day.
Going too long at one time without rest is dangerous. So is enduring day after day of inadequate or poor sleep. Drowsy drivers exhibit many of the same symptoms as drunk drivers. These driving challenges include difficulty focusing, longer reaction times and poor decision-making capabilities. It is impossible to know exactly how many crashes are the result of drowsy driving, as many drivers won’t be honest about their sleepy state prior to the wreck.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that in 2017, at least 91,000 wrecks and nearly 800 deaths were the result of drowsy driving. The low reporting means that closer to 6,000 may actually die from drowsiness-related wrecks.
What can you do about drowsy driving?
One of the best ways to avoid a fatigue-related crash is to decide not to drive when you are too tired. If you are having a hard time focusing or find yourself yawning frequently when it is time to head home for the day, you may need to take a few moments to wake yourself up or ask someone else to drive.
It can be difficult to spot fatigued drivers in traffic, although you may notice signs of fatigue right after a crash, such as someone rubbing their eyes. Speaking up when you notice those issues could help you hold a driver accountable for their mistakes at the wheel. Learning more about the top causes of serious motor vehicle collisions can improve your safety.