You hear a lot about drunk driving, but did you know that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous? In fact, the erratic driving behaviors between a drunk driver and an overly tired driver often look very similar.
The problem is that being overly tired is a rather common occurrence for American drivers. People are frequently either not getting enough sleep, or taking sleep-inducing medications to help them fall and stay sleep. This leads to people not being well-rested enough while behind the wheel.
How common is drowsy driving?
According to a AAA survey, a third of people admitted to driving at some point in the past month while tired. And we aren’t just talking a little sleepy. These drivers said they could barely keep their eyes open.
This is alarming, as sleep deprivation mimics the same risky driving behaviors as someone who is drunk. It can cause crashes that lead to property damage and injuries, and can lead to traffic and criminal charges including Careless Driving, Reckless Driving, or even Vehicular Assault or Vehicular Homicide.
Do sleep medications help or hurt?
The average adult needs at least seven hours of sleep a night. However, a lot of people simply have a hard time getting enough sleep. Many go through the day tired, while others take sleep aids to try to get a good night of sleep.
The problem with sleep aids is that you need to be able to get at least seven hours of sleep after taking them. This means you should not take one at midnight and wake up for work at 6 a.m., as the effects of the medication will still be in your system. All too often though, people do not follow these directions and end up taking a medication, not getting the full seven hours and then wake up to start their day.
Another concern is the mixing of medications and prescriptions. Many take prescriptions from their doctor and then mix these with over-the-counter medicines. The problem is that the combination of some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can lead to drowsiness. If drowsy driving is caused by prescription and/or over-the-counter medications, it presents a risk of arrest for Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Ability Impaired.
What should drivers do?
We are all responsible for making sure that we are safe drivers. This means everyone should be making every attempt to get enough sleep at night or should talk with their doctors if this is not happening.
When it comes to taking medications, it is important to read the manufacturer’s warning label and directions and take these accordingly. Those taking multiple medications and prescriptions should also consult their doctors to make sure there are no drowsiness concerns, and to make sure that it is safe to drive while taking the medication.
While it may seem tedious now, taking the necessary precautions is better than facing a lawsuit or criminal charges after drowsy driving leads to an accident.