Whether it is coming home from a late-night study session or driving to work after the baby kept you awake all night, fatigued drivers become a hazard to everyone on the road. Some individuals have become so accustomed to drowsy driving they do not even realize they are tired. Unfortunately, tired drivers suffer cognitive impairment, blurred perceptions and slowed reaction times.
Every situation is unique, but there are several risk factors that can lead to a catastrophic drowsy driving-related collision, including:
- Lack of quality sleep: While this is likely the most common explanation for driver fatigue, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety ran a study to determine the exact risk factors. The study found that individuals who slept six to seven hours a night were twice as likely to be involved in a collision as those who slept eight hours or more. Additionally, those who slept for five hours or less were nearly five times more likely to be involved in a crash.
- Sleep deprivation: Researchers in Australia studied the effects of sleep deprivation on cognition and problem solving. They found that individuals who had been awake for 18 hours showed impairment similar to people with a blood alcohol concentration of .05. After 24 hours, the impairment level grew to the equivalent of a .10 BAC.
- Undiagnosed sleep disorders: Individuals who struggle with an undiagnosed sleep disorder find themselves at greater risk for a drowsy driving collision. From sleep apnea to acute insomnia, sleep disorders can increase impairment, diminish cognitive ability and slow perceptions.
Depending on numerous factors, a motor vehicle collision can result in consequences ranging from serious injuries to vehicle occupant fatalities. Additionally, pedestrians and bicyclists are at risk for being struck by a fatigued driver who falls asleep at the wheel or loses control of the vehicle.