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How dangerous is drowsy driving?

In the last couple years, the dangers of distracted driving have become very clear. Now 48 states, including North Carolina, have banned drivers from texting while behind the wheel. But what about drowsy driving? Is it a form of distracted driving too? How dangerous is it?

Drowsy driving statistics

According to the National Safety Council, 20% of drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel in the last year. More than 40% of drivers admit to being asleep behind the wheel at some point in their driving career. In 2017, the National Highway Safety Administration reported that 50,000 people were injured in drowsy driving accidents; 795 of those were killed because of drowsy driving.

Drowsy driving vs. distracted driving

Drowsy driving isn’t necessarily distracted driving, but it impacts drivers in the same way: they don’t pay as much attention to the road and can’t respond as quickly if they need to stop or steer suddenly. Drowsy drivers also can’t make good decisions.

Drivers who are more likely to be drowsy are those who don’t get enough sleep. These most often include the following:

  • Drivers who are under 25 years old (perhaps overworked college students)
  • Shift workers (those who work the night shift or long hours)
  • Commercial truck drivers
  • Drivers with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
  • Drivers using medications that make them drowsy

Preventing drowsy driving accidents

To prevent falling asleep at the wheel, first always get a good night’s rest, especially if you will be on the road for hours. Know that if you find yourself yawning a lot, having a hard time keeping your eyes open or having trouble keeping your head up, you need to take a break. Pull off at a rest stop and take a nap.

Other tips to prevent drowsy driving include the following:

  • Avoid driving late at night.
  • Avoid driving alone.
  • Drink a caffeinated beverage for a quick boost.
  • Arrange for someone else to drive or give you a ride home if needed.

Falling asleep behind the wheel can be terrifying and result in a deadly accident. It’s always better to take a break, get some rest and arrive later at your destination safely.

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