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Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on November 11th, 2013,
by Zane Cagle

Holiday Season in Missouri Approaches- Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Posted on November 11th, 2013 by Zane Cagle

Currently, it is hard to estimate how many fatal accidents are caused by drowsy driving.  In contrast, we have all heard about the dangers and statistics of drunk driving. If you are not aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, then you haven’t read a newspaper or watched television in over a decade.  Organizations like MADD, SADD and countless others do a great job of promoting the dangers and consequences of drunk driving.  However, the dangers of drowsy driving is far less discussed.  Drowsy driving can be as serious and fatal as drunk driving.

According to DrowsyDriving.com, it is nearly impossible to determine with any certainty the cause of a fatal crash where drowsy driving or driver fatigue is suspected. There are however, a number of clues investigators can look for that imply the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel.  Drowsy driving accidents usually involve only one vehicle where the driver is alone and injuries tend to be serious or fatal.  Clues such as skid marks or lack of evasive maneuvers are usually absent from the crash scene.

In alcohol related crashes, investigators can use blood or breath tests, but there are no objective after-the-fact tests for sleepiness.  Identifying drowsiness as a factor in car crashes can be very difficult for police and investigators.

Definitions of drowsy driving or driver fatigue are based on how the concept of “fatigue” is defined.  Fatigue is the term used to describe when one is “sleepy”, “tired”, “drowsy”, or “exhausted”. These terms may seem very different in the clinical/research field but tend to be used interchangeable in the fields of traffic safety and transportation.

Many things cause sleepiness and fatigue including too little sleep, interrupted sleep, chronic sleep debt, factors associated with driving patterns and work schedules, undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders, time spent on task, the use of sedating medications, and consumption of alcohol when already tired.  These factors and their cumulative effects contribute the risk of a fatigue-related crash.

Like drunk driving, drowsy driving shares many of the same problematic behaviors:

  • Impaired reaction time, judgment and vision
  • Problems with processing information & short term memory
  • Decreased performance, vigilance and motivation
  • Increased moodiness and aggressive behaviors

As the holidays are quickly approaching, many of us will be spending more time on the highways and interstates.  It is crucial to be rested before starting out on a journey. That is easy to say and harder to do because it is not like choosing to refrain from drinking and driving.  We cannot always control the factors that allow us to sleep, but we have a duty to be aware and gauge our driving choice based on our physical condition.

If you have children, then you know most of the moms out there are operating suggestions before you take a long driving trip:

  1. Always try to get a good night’s rest before you travel. Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep per day
  2. Read the warning labels on all medications. Don’t start any new medications the day before travel. If your prescriptions have warnings, check with your doctor for non-drowsy alternatives
  3. Schedule regular breaks during your long drive. Sleepiness can creep up on you quickly so stop every 150 miles.  Give your body a chance to get out of the car and get the blood flowing so you are less likely to become lethargic and tired
  4. Share the driving. Try to avoid making these long trips alone. The other person can be watchful for signs that you are getting sleepy and let you know it is time to get out of the driver’s seat

False Cures:

Caffeine: While caffeine is able to mitigate the effects of sleepiness, it takes time to kick in. If you are a regular coffee or soda drinker, the effect will likely be much smaller and not last as long as you think

Distractions: Opening the window/ turning the radio up:  Many believe that distractions can give a slight improvement in driving performance, but the effects are not enough to overcome sleepiness.

These false cures can often do more harm than good as they give the driver a false sense of security.

Commercially made alarms—the problem with these alarms is that by the time they go off, one has usually lost control of the vehicle.  The most effective of these is the rumble strip on the side of the road.

So what is the cure for drowsy driving?  While it is inconvenient, often pulling over and resting or postponing your trip is the only solution.  If you have run over the rumble strips on the side of the road a couple of times, you need to pull over and rest.

Most of us have been touched by a motor vehicle at least once in our lives whether individually or the accident involving a loved one. If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by another such as a drowsy driver, you may have options.  At The Cagle Law Firm, we know recovering from a car accident is difficult. Our attorneys assist victims of auto accident daily and we understand the importance of gathering evidence, sorting through statements and negotiating with insurance companies. Call locally (314) 276-1681 or toll free (314) 276-1681