Did you know that 60 percent of Americans have admitted to driving while sleepy, and that 37 percent confessed to having falling asleep at the wheel? Each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these fatigued or drowsy drivers cause approximately 100,000 accidents. In fact, drowsiness at the wheel is just as risky as falling asleep while driving, and some studies have compared the effects of sleepiness to the effects of being drunk.
Road trance—in which you fall into a trance-like state precipitated by staring too long at the car in front of you or the lines in the road—can drastically inhibit your reaction time. This can happen often in places like Los Angeles, where commutes are long and difficult, especially after stressful days at work. Proactively protect yourself, your passengers, and others on the road by being able to recognize signs of driver fatigue and taking steps to prevent it.
Causes of Drowsy Driving
Driver fatigue is caused by more factors than just a simple absence of sleep. Sleep that was of poor quality can also lead to driver drowsiness. So too, can lack of exercise, inadequate or low-quality diet, and drinking. Being on the road for long hours and multiple days—such as when you're on a road trip or are a semi-truck driver—can also lead to drowsiness or a trance-like state at the wheel.
Other factors increase your chances of driving while fatigued. These include working more than one job, drinking even a tiny amount of alcohol, driving through the night, driving on a boring road, and working greater than 60 hours each week (which increases your risk by 40%!).
Symptoms of Road Trance and Driver Fatigue
Knowing the symptoms of driver drowsiness, fatigue, and road trance will help you identify when your driving is less-than-safe and give you an opportunity to take the steps necessary to prevent an accident.
- Burning eyes
- Constant blinking
- Sensation of heavy eyelids
- Trouble keeping your head upright
- Twitching muscles
- Tension and strain in your back
- Frequent yawning
- Trouble focusing your eyes on the road
- Daydreaming or out-of-focus thoughts
- Difficulty remembering having driven the last few miles
- Feeling grumpy and restless
- Breathing that is shallower than normal
- Arms and legs feeling numb, heavy, or light and tingly
Ways to Prevent Driver Fatigue
How can you keep driver sleepiness at bay? Here are a few suggestions that can help keep you and others safe on the road:
- Exercise regularly, even if it's just a walk around the neighborhood
- Eat a balanced diet—be sure you're getting enough veggies and protein
- Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, especially before a long drive
- Eat light meals before driving
- Keep your vehicle cool and well ventilated
- Listen to peppy, upbeat music—soft music is too relaxing
- Pull off the road and take a break every two hours
- When taking a break, walk around and stretch
- Sing along with the radio
- Avoid taking medications that can cause drowsiness, such as antidepressants, cold medicine, and antihistamines
- Avoid drinking even a small amount of alcohol
- Sit up straight—no slouching
- Drink plenty of water
- Don't rely on caffeine to keep you awake
- Check yourself periodically for the symptoms listed above—and take a break when you notice them
- If you recognize the symptoms of drowsy driving listed above, exit and take a short, 20-minute nap in your car or call a friend for help
Have You Been Injured by a Drowsy Driver?
Unfortunately, many people do not follow these guidelines, and some drowsy California drivers have been the cause of traffic accidents. If you were in an accident caused by a driver who you suspect was fatigued—whether a regular commuter or a semi-truck driver—contact an Orange County attorney who can advocate for you. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes represent clients in a wide variety of matters, including car accidents caused by driver fatigue. If you have suffered injuries in a car accident due to the negligence of another person, contact the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes today at 714-423-6930 for your free consultation.
Avoiding Driver Fatigue, Transport Accident Commission, http://www.tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/safe-driving/tips-and-tools/fighting-fatigue.
Driving Fatigue Prevention, The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation, https://www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/videoresource/t5driverfatigue.pdf.
Warning Signs, National Sleep Foundation, http://drowsydriving.org/about/warning-signs/.
Who's at Risk? National Sleep Foundation, http://drowsydriving.org/about/whos-at-risk/.