Most of us here in Los Angeles have experienced the struggle to keep our eyes open during a late-night drive after an exhausting day at work. There are times when you stop to take a break or a nap. And sometimes, you might change drivers. Other times, you have no choice but to forge ahead, cranking up the music or opening the window.
While they impact drivers differently, keep in mind that fatigued driving can be just as dangerous or risky as driving under the influence of alcohol.
And many drivers in Los Angeles are aware of the fact that activities like driving under the influence and texting behind the wheel are not only dangerous to themselves, but also to those on the road with them. However, many people fail to realize that driving while tired or fatigued can be just as dangerous.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, annually, there are more than 100,000 reported traffic accidents caused by driver fatigue, accounting for almost 1,500 deaths, more than 70,000 injuries, and a loss of about $12 billion.
Combating fatigued or tired driving starts with identifying as well as understanding the issues created by getting behind the wheel of your car in an impaired state.
What is Fatigued Driving?
We can define fatigued driving as the operation of a car or other vehicle by a driver who is drowsy, tired, or sleepy. This state creates a high risk of operational impairment. Fatigued or drowsy driving is hard to recognize. This is because there aren’t any tests for sloppiness, such as a breathalyzer test for intoxication. Also, note that sleepiness often spans a spectrum from moderate tiredness to the point of severe fatigue. And, in many cases, determining whether a driver is fatigued is usually based on self-assessment.
Dangers of Fatigued Driving
There is no doubt that fatigued driving can cause a driver to pay less attention to the road. It also slows their reaction time, adversely affecting the ability to make sound decisions. Fatigued driving also impairs short-term memory and information processing, decreasing performance, motivation, and vigilance in the process.
Did you know that car accidents caused by fatigued or drowsy driving are the most common early in the morning and late at night? Most car crashes are the result of failure to brake. And it is also common for many fatigued drivers in Los Angeles to veer off the road.
Fatigued driving is dangerous for you and others on the road. This is because sleep deprivation and fatigue can have similar effects on the body as drinking alcohol. Also, it is worth noting that being awake for eighteen hours makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of 0.05. And if you have not slept for a full 24 hours and then drive after a night where you just could not fall asleep—it is like you have a blood alcohol level of 0.10.
The Warning Signs of Fatigued Driving
Drivers who are too fatigued or sleep-deprived to drive a vehicle can exhibit any of the following warning signs:
- Missing exits or turns
- Problems remembering the last couple of miles driven
- Yawning and blinking on a frequent basis
- Irritability and rubbing eyes
- Hitting rumble strips present on the side of the road
- Frequently drifting between lanes
If you experience any of these signs, you should take a break or change drivers.
What Can You Do?
Before getting behind the wheel, you can take the following actions that will help prevent fatigued driving:
- Refrain from consuming alcohol or drugs
- Don’t drive from midnight to 6:00 am. This is because it is your body’s biological rhythm during which your body will naturally prefer to sleep
- Drink more caffeine to stay vigilant
- Do not try to rush, as this can lead to mistakes even when you have had a full night’s rest
- When driving at night, have a second driver with you who can take over
- If possible, you should take a short nap before going on a long drive
Note that it is important that you be aware of your body and what you need in order to control your car or another vehicle safely. If you or someone you love was gravely injured or killed in a car crash, contact a personal injury lawyer today for a confidential and free case consultation.