Driving While Drowsy: As Dangerous As Alcohol Impairment

While there has been much media attention on impaired and distracted driving in Ontario, and rightly so, there has been little attention to the dangers of driving while drowsy. The Ministry of Transportation says that drowsy driving has been a growing concern and has factored into a growing number of collisions resulting in injuries and fatalities. As Cornwall personal injury lawyers, we see the disastrous effects of drowsy driving often.

Research on Drowsy Driving

According to a study put out by the AAA Foundation, there is real danger in driving while getting anything less than seven hours of sleep. The report entitled Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement shows that drivers who miss two to three hours of sleep over a 24-hour period more than quadruple their risk of getting into a motor vehicle accident. This is the same risk associated with driving over the legal limit for alcohol. This is serious as most drivers admit to driving without a sufficient amount of sleep over the past month even while admitting it is dangerous.

Research by the Department of Psychology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario has also shown that young drivers under the age of 25 are most at risk as they tend to overestimate their driving abilities while drowsy.

Signs That You May Be Too Tired to Drive

Some of the symptoms that drivers exhibit while driving while drowsy include:

● Having trouble keeping eyes open.
● Head keeps falling forward
● Frequent yawning
● Missing lights and signals
● Drifting between lanes
● Drifting off the road
● Inability to remember the last few miles driven

But over 50% of drivers involved in such crashes experienced no symptoms at all before falling asleep at the wheel. AAA urges drivers to not rely on their bodies to show signs of fatigue. Instead, drivers should make sleep a priority and should only travel when:

● They would normally be awake
● They can schedule a break every 100 miles or every 2 hours
● They have not had a heavy meal
● They have someone who can share driving responsibilities
● They have avoided any medication that could have resulted in drowsiness or impairment

Studies show that most collisions where drowsiness is a factor take place during the hours of 2 am and 6 am or late afternoons between 2 pm and 4 pm. They also show that shift workers, those with untreated sleep disorders, and commercial vehicle drivers are at a greater risk for these types of collisions.

Get Off the Road

If you find that you are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel, pull off and park in a safe area. Lock the doors and take a nap. Don’t rely on stimulants such as caffeine as the effects can wear off quite quickly. Unfortunately, if you are sleep deprived, there is little you can do to trick your body into staying awake.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a drowsy driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Call the Cornwall injury lawyers at AM Injury Law for a free assessment of your case.