Fatigue is a common issue in the United States. In fact, safety experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that roughly 37% of working adults consistently fail to get adequate sleep. Their sleep-deprived state may lead to changes in their mood and job performance, and it can also put them at risk on the road.
Fatigued or drowsy drivers are everywhere, and they can potentially cause crashes that demolish vehicles or leave someone with permanent injuries. A driver’s exhaustion can contribute to safety risks in two distinct ways. How does fatigue affect someone’s safety at the wheel?
1. They could lose consciousness
The more tired someone feels while driving, the more likely they are to fall asleep. People may lose Consciousness at the wheel when they have gone too long without sufficient rest. Even those who don’t dramatically doze off and then jerk themselves awake could experience what experts call microsleep.
Although it only lasts for four or five seconds, someone’s attention and awareness will drop substantially during microsleep. People could travel the length of a football field without actively monitoring their surroundings.
2. Their driving skills are poorer
Those who study the way the human brain works often compare the consequences of fatigue to the effects of alcohol. The correlation between decreased performance and exhaustion is so strong that commercial transportation professionals, including truckers and airline pilots, are subject to strict rules to prevent them from performing their jobs in a fatigued state.
There are no such rules for the average driver, and many people rely on caffeine to help them stay awake at the wheel. However, caffeine will not undo the cognitive effects of fatigue, such as noticeably increased reaction time, difficulty focusing and poor decision-making.
Recognizing that fatigue might put you at risk on the road could help you make a better choice about when you drive. It could also help you potentially identify a risk factor that may have caused a crash, especially late in the afternoon or after dark, which are times with fatigue tends to spike in many humans. Learning about and avoiding common sources of car crash risk can help everyone be a little safer on the road.