Most drivers know the risks of speeding, driving while using a cell phone, or drinking and driving. However, many people underestimate the potential danger caused by getting behind the wheel while overly tired or fatigued. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy drivers played a role in an estimated 91,000 reported collisions in 2017.
While drowsy driving accidents may occur at any time of the day or night, most happen between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. or late in the afternoon. Such collisions may occur because of factors such as staying up too late, long or monotonous drives, working late or long shifts, or waking up frequently with a new baby. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol consumption, taking certain medications and untreated sleep disorders may also contribute to the occurrence of drowsy driving crashes.
Sleepiness, even if drivers do not fall asleep behind the wheel, may affect people’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Drowsiness may cause effects, including impaired judgment, decreased attentiveness and reduced reaction times. Among other things, these and other effects resulting from fatigue may make it difficult for drivers to recall the last several miles driven, to drift from their lanes or hit rumble strips, or to miss their exits.
Anyone who does not get enough sleep may become a drowsy driver. Shift workers, commercial truck operators and those who work night hours may also drive while drowsy. Having an undiagnosed sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, and using medications that cause drowsiness or otherwise have sedating effects may also play a role in drivers getting behind the wheel while too tired.