The chances of being involved in an auto accident increase dramatically when you drive drunk. In recent years, many people throughout Illinois are getting that message and taking appropriate steps to curtail drunk driving, such as getting a designated driver or taking a cab.
However, people aren’t taking the same approach when it comes to driving while drowsy. Maybe that’s because Illinoisans really aren’t aware of the extent of the problem.
If you are involved in a collision that you suspect was caused by a drowsy driver, it may be an important factor in any subsequent personal injury lawsuit which could be filed against the offender.
An Australian study from 2000 revealed that drowsiness slows a driver’s reaction time, coordination, and judgment. In 2011, researchers discovered that driving for two hours at night is similar to being buzzed behind the wheel (in terms of driver performance), while being awake for 20 consecutive hours causes you to drive as if your blood alcohol level was above Illinois’ legal limit of .08%. But perhaps the most illuminating statistic comes from a French study of auto accident factors between 2007 and 2009: drowsy driving doubled the risk of causing a crash – just like drunk driving does.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that each year, more than 100,000 reported auto accidents are a direct result of driver fatigue or sleepiness. To make matters worse, a 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll found that 60% of those surveyed admitted to driving drowsy within the previous year – and 37% had actually fallen asleep at the wheel.
So when possible, it is wise to look for signs of drowsy driving at an accident scene, such as:
- the other driver stating how tired or sleepy he/she is (or an admission of falling asleep while driving)
- excessive yawning or bloodshot or baggy eyes
- the lack of skid marks on the road, which could indicate that the driver wasn’t alert enough to try to correct his/her error or avoid the crash (like drunk drivers often do)
On the other side of the coin, Illinois drivers must take preventive measures to avoid drowsy driving accidents. Here are some tips:
- Incorporate the proper amount of sleep into your normal routine.
- Try to avoid driving between 2am and 6am.
- Be aware of a natural dip in your body’s circadian rhythm during the day, which often occurs between 2pm and 4pm.
- Seek treatment for any sleep disorders you may be suffering from.
- Avoid driving long distances late at night; or at least stop every two hours to give your body a break.
- Pull over and take a 10 to 20 minute nap if you are feeling drowsy on a long trip, especially at night.
Drowsy driving prevention may not be the subject of a complex ad campaign like programs to combat drunk driving or texting while driving. Nevertheless, it is a major problem which can lead to potentially devastating consequences if ignored. So be sure to treat drowsy driving as seriously as you would driving while intoxicated – because the effects are more similar than you may think.
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