Fatigue is a common problem for most Americans and can stem from interrupted sleep patterns and demanding work schedules, but what happens when you are overtired and get behind the wheel of a car? According to the Insurance Information Institute, driver fatigue played a significant role in highway deaths in 2018, where over 1,200 people died in car and motorcycle accidents.
Understanding the risks of drowsy driving may prevent you and those you share the road with from serious injury or death, no matter your driving experience or ability.
Erratic sleep patterns or a lack of restful sleep can increase your chances of nodding off behind the wheel. If you or your bed partner snore, this may wake you several times a night and interrupt normal sleep patterns. Restricted sleep, such as getting less than seven or eight hours of rest per evening, may also cause drowsy driving.
When your mind and body are accustomed to a certain sleep pattern, even a small change in the number of hours of sleep you get can increase your chances of feeling sleepy while driving. For example, if you are used to sleeping seven hours per evening but miss an hour, you may feel significantly sleepier during your drive home from work. Depending on how radical the changes are, the risk of accident can rise as high as those caused by a raised blood alcohol level.
Drowsy driving crashes are most common in the overnight hours. However, they may occur at other times of day on highways, where drivers are traveling alone and for long distances, so remaining alert or traveling with a companion may reduce the risk of an accident.