There is little disagreement when it comes to the idea that drunk driving is dangerous. Likewise, few people believe that distracted driving is a safe activity. The general agreement on these topics does not stop people from drinking and driving, or from checking their phones while behind the wheel, but it does, at least, register with people that these behaviors should be avoided. Drowsy driving does not share the same level of agreement and understanding when it comes to the driving public.
The Department of Transportation reported that 3,179 deaths were the result of distracted drivers in 2014. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed drunk driving as the cause of death for just under 10,000 people that same year. Drowsy driving is a problem that fits somewhere in between. According to a recent study, fatigued drivers claim the lives of roughly 5,000 per year.
The study, conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association, identified a number of tools that could be effective in fighting fatigue behind the wheel. Improved driver education would likely play a prominent role in any effort to combat drowsy driving.
Among the recommendation provided by the GHSA are the following:
- Schedule frequent breaks when you are driving long distances
- Avoid alcohol when you are short on sleep
- Do not drive alone, particularly if you know you are sleep-deprived
- Don't overestimate the power of caffeine to combat drowsiness
- Avoid driving at mid-afternoon or from midnight to 7 a.m.
Perhaps the largest problem is that people simply don't consider drowsy driving to be a serious problem. A driver who would never consider driving drunk may not hesitate to drive on insufficient sleep. If you are fighting to keep your eyes open, you are no safer behind the wheel than you would be if you were drunk.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now includes drowsy driving within the definition of impaired driving. Drugs and alcohol are dangerous because they negatively affect your ability to safety operate a motor vehicle. Lack of sleep does the same. If you wouldn't drive drunk, please do yourself and everyone else on the road a favor and don't drive drowsy.
Source: Forbes, "Around 5,000 People Were Killed Last Year Due to Drowsy Driving," by Tanya Mohn, 8 August 2016