Driving requires constant attention and alertness; anything impairing these necessities can significantly increase the risk of a car crash. Fatigue is one such factor that can profoundly affect a person’s ability to drive safely. It can slow reaction times, impair judgment and even lead to falling asleep at the wheel.
Fatigue or drowsiness while driving can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the United States, drowsy driving is responsible for an estimated 100,000 police-reported crashes annually.
Symptoms of driver fatigue can include heavy eyelids, constant yawning, drifting from the driving lane and even brief episodes of falling asleep, often known as microsleeps. These are short, uncontrollable episodes of inattention that last for a few seconds but can lead to disastrous consequences.
Factors contributing to driver fatigue
Several factors can contribute to driver fatigue. These include lack of adequate sleep, driving for extended periods without breaks, driving during the body’s natural downtimes and using sedatives or other medications that induce sleepiness. In addition, individuals with untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia are at a higher risk of fatigue-related crashes.
Mitigating the risk of fatigue-related crashes
Several strategies can help mitigate the risk of fatigue-related crashes:
- Regular breaks: On long drives, it’s recommended to take a break every two hours or every 100 miles, whichever comes first.
- Adequate sleep: Ensuring enough sleep before a long drive can help prevent fatigue.
- Avoiding alcohol and sedatives: Both can increase sleepiness and should be avoided before driving.
- Sharing the drive: Sharing the driving responsibilities with someone else can allow each person to rest and recover.
- Recognizing the signs: Knowing the signs of driver fatigue and taking immediate action, such as pulling over to rest or changing drivers, can help prevent accidents.
Fatigue can play a significant role in car crashes, but understanding its effects and how to mitigate them can significantly enhance road safety. You should get immediate medical attention if you’ve been involved in a fatigue-related crash. Seeking compensation is also possible, but your time to file a case is limited, so act quickly.