Driving is a privilege, not a right. A vehicle is a weapon that can seriously injure and kill others on the roadway. It is every driver’s duty to take the responsibility of driving seriously. Failure to do so can result in common acts of negligence, such as driving drowsy or distracted. Both are dangerous driver mistakes that can prove fatal, but distracted driving tends to get more press. Drowsy driving is a lesser-known risk that’s no less dangerous. Here’s a more in-depth look at these two common forms of driver negligence.
Drowsy driving doesn’t get the awareness it deserves. It is a surprisingly common issue, although the statistics underrepresent the full scale of the problem. It is difficult for police and investigators to confirm drowsy driving as the cause of an accident if the at-fault driver doesn’t survive. The known numbers are still shocking enough to prove that drowsy driving is a common type of negligence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 6,000 fatal car accidents per year could stem from drowsy driving. Drowsy drivers cause thousands of other non-fatal injury accidents annually. In one survey. at least one in 25 drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel in the past 30 days. Drowsy driving can affect anyone, but those most likely commit this act of negligence are those with sleeping problems, commercial truck drivers, those on medications that can make them drowsy, and those who work the night shift.
Distracted driving is also a deadly type of driver negligence. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted drivers caused thousands of accidents and took 3,450 lives in 2016. Texting and driving, chatting with passengers, eating and drinking, and other forms of driver distraction can take a driver’s attention away from the road long enough to cause a serious or fatal collision.
In Montana, distracted drivers are at the heart of hundreds of serious car accidents every year. Drivers often underestimate the risks of distracted driving and overestimate their driving skills. This is a deadly combination that leads to almost all drivers engaging in some form of distraction at least part of the time while driving.
Driving drowsy is a form of driver distraction. Drivers cannot dedicate 100% of their attention or thoughts on the driving task if their focus is staying awake. A tired mind is more prone to distractions, daydreaming, and wandering – all dangerous things when operating a motor vehicle. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous than distracted driving, if not more so. Not only will a drowsy driver have trouble paying attention to the road, but his/her reflexes and reaction time will also be slower.
Drowsy drivers also run the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. An unconscious driver may run off the road, crash into nearby drivers, or cause a deadly head-on collision. The driver will not be able to turn the wheel or hit his/her brakes before colliding, resulting in a higher-speed impact and higher risk of serious injuries. A distracted driver, on the other hand, may at least have a chance of spotting danger and reacting in time to prevent a crash.
Never drive drowsy. Get plenty of rest and break long road trips into smaller portions, sleeping in between. Switch drivers as needed. As soon as you notice signs of drowsiness, such as heavy eyes, frequent blinking, yawning, or drifting between lanes, pull over someplace safe and take a nap. Coffee and energy drinks are not substitutes for sleep. Take a break before it’s too late to prevent a serious accident.