What NC drivers need to know about drowsy driving

Drowsy driving can affect anyone, and is responsible for thousands of traffic deaths and injuries. It is important to get enough sleep before driving.

With the upcoming holiday season, many residents of North Carolina and elsewhere will be making road trips to see family and friends out of state. Americans are often sleep-deprived, which can be deadly on the roads.

How serious is the problem of drowsy driving?

According to studies by State Farm Insurance and the Governors Highway Safety Association, more than 80 million people in the country drive while drowsy. In 2015, about 5,000 people were killed in motor vehicle collisions attributed to drowsy driving. In studies by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 31.5 percent of respondents said that during the past 30 days, they had driven despite having trouble keeping their eyes open. Additionally, 3.5 percent said this occurred on a regular basis, and 43.2 percent admitted they had actually fallen asleep or nodded off behind the wheel.

Who is the most likely to drive while drowsy?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that while anyone can drive sleepy, certain groups are more at risk of being injured or killed in accidents related to drowsy driving. These include the following:

  • Commercial drivers, including truck and bus drivers
  • High school and college students
  • People who work late or overnight shifts
  • Those who take medication that causes drowsiness
  • People with untreated sleep disorders

It should be noted that anyone who regularly does not get enough sleep can be at an elevated risk of unintentionally catching up on their sleep while driving.

Is drowsy driving as bad as drunk driving?

In other studies, driving while sleep-deprived was shown to have the same impairment effects as alcohol intoxication. According to the National Sleep Foundation, Australian researchers tested drivers who had been awake for 18 hours and found they had similarities to those with a blood alcohol content of .05 percent. After being awake for 24 hours, drivers behaved similarly to people with a .10 BAC, which is higher than the legal limit in America.

How can I keep from falling asleep behind the wheel?

The most important rule to follow and avoid drowsy driving is to get enough rest the night before a trip. Drivers may also bring someone to switch turns driving and help keep them awake, avoid driving while taking sedating medications and stop every couple of hours to stretch their legs. If drowsiness becomes a problem, it may be a good idea to pull over in a rest stop or parking lot to take a nap. Caffeine can help increase alertness for a little while, but should not be used as a substitution for adequate sleep.

This holiday season, people are encouraged to consider the risks of drowsy driving and be sure they are not beginning a road trip on little sleep. It may be necessary to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in Raleigh after an accident that has caused an injury.