While the majority of people know that extreme sleep deprivation can make driving unsafe, most still do not consider drowsiness to be a major problem. People who are vigilant about not getting behind the wheel after even one drink often think nothing of setting out when feeling a bit sleepy.
According to experts, even losing as little as one or two hours from a regular night’s sleep (seven to eight hours for most adults) can produce dangerous effects, including decreased attention span, mental fog and delayed reaction times. All of these can prevent a driver from avoiding road hazards in time to prevent an accident.
A greater level of sleep deprivation can cause dizziness, blurred vision and even blackouts. Any of these symptoms can substantially increase the risk of a car crash. Fatigue in combination with other risk factors such as prescription drugs, alcohol or illness can also elevate dangerous mental and physical side effects.
Getting enough sleep
Prevention is the best cure; avoiding drowsiness in general can decrease the risk of driving when sleepy. This may mean taking more care to manage your schedule and ensure you have enough time to get an adequate amount of sleep. The general guidelines for sleep offer a good starting point, but you should also know your specific requirements. Some rare people function at top capacity after four hours of sleep; other need at least 10.
Identifying medical issues
If you know you get the requisite number of sleep hours each night yet continue to experience fatigue, you may need medical attention. Sleep apnea is a common culprit. You may think you slept well, while in reality you kept waking up for micro-periods of time throughout the night.
Watching out for sleepy drivers
In addition to taking precautions against driving while drowsy, watch out for other drowsy drivers on the road. Behaviors such as drifting, delayed reactions, and abrupt stops and starts all raise red flags for sleepiness or other impairment. Unfortunately, there is not a foolproof way to guarantee that a drowsy driver will not involve you in a crash. If you do find yourself injured in an accident, speak with an experienced lawyer about your options for obtaining legal compensation.