The Growing Danger of Drowsy Driving

Sign Warning of Drowsy Driving Dangers

It seems to have taken a while to get there, but everyone now agrees that driving drunk is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Despite this knowledge, Texas is always at or near the top when it comes to drunk driving deaths.  Likewise, the dangers of distracted driving are also becoming more apparent and accepted, and more and more states are cracking down on those who constantly play with their cell phone while driving.

Unfortunately, fewer people seem to understand the inherent danger inherent in the third form of impaired driving; one that contributes to around 6,000 traffic fatalities per year, and that is drowsy driving.

Drowsy Driving is a Big Problem, Especially in Texas

A recent study has tried to shine a light on the problem, as a way of sending a message that driving when you’re over-tired is a danger to everyone on the road. While many may think downing a Thermos of coffee will counteract their drooping eyelids, the fact of the matter is, too many people are dying on the nation’s roads and highway because they are simply too exhausted to die. Everyone should think twice before getting behind the wheel when they feel tired.

More than nearly any other state, Texas has experienced the impact of drowsy driving. In fact, Texas drivers are four times more likely to die in drowsy driving crashes as drivers in California, which is the third-worst state for tired drivers. Worse, Texas leads the nation in drowsy driving fatalities and accounts for one out of every five exhaustion-related traffic fatalities. That’s opposed to the 5.3 percent of nationwide drowsy driving deaths that occur in California. And keep in mind, California’s population tops Texas’ by more than 10 million.

And lest you think this is mainly a problem in the cities, keep in mind that drowsy driving fatalities in Texas are nearly seven times as likely to occur in rural Texas than in the cities. Also, long-haul truck drivers are also more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving accident than those just driving around town.

All of this information comes courtesy of a study that examined data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to discover ways to help drivers become more alert and safer while on the road. The researchers discovered several trends when it comes to drowsy driving accidents, including one that showed that more such crashes happen on Sunday and Monday mornings between 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.

How Do Drowsy Driving Accidents Happen?

They also found that drowsy driving fatalities tend to peak in June, which is when summer starts and people experience later nights and more sleep-deprived mornings. The study also demonstrates that researchers tried to explain the nature of many of these types of accidents as well. For example, they discovered that most drowsy driving accidents occurred when the driver fell asleep behind the wheel. About two-thirds of the accidents happened when the vehicle struck an inanimate object, like a highway barrier or barricade or a tree.

In addition, researchers also found that many drowsy-driving crashes are head-on, with around 15 percent happening when the driver fell asleep and drove into oncoming traffic. This proves that driving while being tired is a potential hazard to everyone on the road.

According to CDC data, about 30 percent of adults nationwide get less than six hours of sleep per night, even though the National Institutes for Health (NIH) recommends at least 7-8 hours per night. As a result, there is always the possibility of encountering a sleep-deprived driver on the roads.

The problem of drowsy driving seems to be more acute in Texas. A 2013 CDC study found that 4.2 percent of drivers nationwide admitted to having fallen asleep while driving within the previous 30 days. However, among Texas drivers, that number rose to 6.1 percent, which was the highest among the 19 states included in the study.

This is a Big Problem: Don’t Make it Worse

The relatively high rate of drowsy driving in Texas is a very big problem because drowsy driving causes approximately 100,000 vehicle crashes annually, causing 1,500 deaths and more than 70,000 injuries of various types.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine claimed there is no material difference between drowsy drivers and drunk drivers with a blood-alcohol level of .05 percent. A group of Australian researchers corroborated these results.

If you are really tired and about to get behind the wheel, you face the same decisions as someone who is planning to drive after a couple of drinks. If you think your driving might be impaired, you need to consider the risk. It might be a good idea to hop on the bus, call a taxi or consult a ride-sharing app to get you where you need to go.

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