Studies indicate that drowsy drivers are as dangerous as drunk drivers; in some ways, they are even more so. A feeling of sleepiness is not uncommon, and you may be among those who have occasionally felt drowsy while driving.
On the other hand, you may have been the victim of a car accident caused by someone who had fallen asleep at the wheel. You may have sustained serious injuries yet count yourself lucky to be alive.
You may have experienced it yourself: yawning, daydreaming, head-nodding or trouble focusing on the road ahead. In fact, you might not be able to recall details about the last few miles you traveled. Before you know it, your eyes are drifting closed, and that is a sign of real trouble ahead.
Crashes caused by drowsy drivers often occur in the late afternoon or between midnight and 6 a.m. Why? These are the periods when the circadian rhythm takes a dip. The same thing happens when people go through the time change that comes up in both the spring and the fall. Everyone’s normal sleep pattern is disrupted and drivers are warned to be extra careful when these changes occur.
Your brain will compensate for loss of shut-eye by taking micro-sleeps of a few seconds. Your car, driven at highway speeds, can travel the length of a football field in those three or four seconds, and you could end up smashed into a tree, a concrete abutment or someone else’s car. The driver of that other car would have little chance of evasion because your accelerator would probably be floored and your vehicle barreling along at full speed, about to cause a horrendous crash.
The rule of thumb here is to get sufficient sleep before you drive: seven to eight hours, if possible. Consider your circadian rhythm and try to avoid driving during peak sleepiness times. Avoid drinking alcohol before driving and taking medications that make you sleepy. Be alert. Remember that there are other drowsy drivers out there, about to cause accidents in which you might become a victim.