Americans are really a very tired lot. While nobody intentionally gets behind the wheel of a car and falls asleep, about 60% of the adult drivers in this country will admit to driving while fatigued. One-third of them will even admit to falling asleep while in motion.
Drowsy driving is equated with drunk driving in terms of danger. The big difference is that drivers know when they’ve been drinking, but not everyone realizes how fatigued they are until they have an accident.
So, what causes drowsy driving? According to sleep educators, you’re more likely to fall asleep while driving when:
- You have an untreated sleep disorder. Many people don’t know they’re even suffering from something like sleep apnea until they’ve had it for years, while others who know they have the disease aren’t compliant with treatment.
- You’re on powerful medications. All kinds of medications can make you sleepy. That includes everything from prescription painkillers to over-the-counter cold medication.
- You do shift work that requires you to rotate your schedule. Shift workers often have a hard time adjusting their bodies to their demanding schedules.
- You’re young and male. Men in their 30s and younger tend to be involved in the majority of drowsy-driving wrecks. That may be because young men are typically encouraged to push themselves pretty hard or “burn the candle at both ends” to get ahead.
- You’re driving alone. It’s harder to stay awake when you don’t have anyone else there to keep you alert. Opening the window and turning up the radio are common tricks people use to stay awake, but neither is particularly effective.
If you’re not sleeping enough — or struggle with drowsy driving — it’s smarter to take an Uber or get a ride. Just the same, you can only control your own actions, so you still have to contend with other drowsy drivers out there. If you end up in a wreck with a drowsy driver, find out what rights you have to compensation for your losses.