Not getting enough sleep is a health epidemic in the United States. Between mental health issues and demanding daily schedules, both chronic fatigue and insomnia are common complaints. Most people who feel tired just go about their day, unaware of the risk that their choices may generate.
However, research makes it very clear that fatigued or drowsy driving is a serious safety concern that contributes to hundreds if not thousands of crashes every year in the United States.
What do the statistics say?
According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 25 drivers will admit that they fell asleep at the wheel in the last 30 days at least one time. Some of those drivers fell asleep at the wheel more than once, and people tend to under-report bad behavior when surveyed by authority figures, even anonymously.
In other words, a frighteningly high number of people are out driving when they are so exhausted they can’t even keep their eyes open anymore. Far more people are driving when fatigue has affected their ability. The longer someone has gone without adequate sleep, the more their fatigue will impact their driving ability. Many experts liken the effects of sleep deprivation on driving to the impact alcohol has, as it may increase reaction times and lead to trouble focusing and making decisions.
How can you address fatigued driving?
Making sure that you get enough sleep and asking someone else to drive when you have not gotten adequate rest will be the simplest way to reduce your chances of causing a motor vehicle collision. Unfortunately, the solution that many people reach for is caffeine.
Stimulants do not reverse fatigue but will cover up the symptoms of how exhausted you actually are. Too much caffeine can also worsen your fatigue symptoms while causing others. Caffeine can make your hands shake and spike your anxiety levels before you crash as your body metabolizes the caffeine.
Once you recognize how dangerous it can be to drive while fatigued, you may have a newfound respect for the degree of risk on the road. After all, you probably know dozens of people who brag about how little sleep they get while taking care of their families or pushing their careers to the next level. Connecting certain behaviors with crash risk could help you reduce the chances of causing a car wreck.