Often when one thinks about the reason an accident occurs it is due to a driver engaging in an activity that is clearly dangerous such as driving while intoxicated or trying to text while operating a vehicle. While these behaviors can of course lead to such an outcome, other, seemingly less sinister things can also be the cause of car accidents. One of these factors is drowsy driving.
The term “drowsy driving” probably conjures the notion of a driver who is attempting to get across the country as quickly as possible, without stopping for sleep. While there are likely situations in which this is true, most drivers on the road have participated in this activity, possibly without even realizing it. Someone on their way to work after a night of insomnia or a parent who has spent much of the night up with an unhappy child could just as easily find that their driving abilities are being impacted by the lack of sleep.
One does not need to be so exhausted as to fall asleep while driving for the lack of rest to be an issue. It can also lead to slower response times for a driver such as the failure to apply the brakes in a timely manner. Both of these could result in a car accident.
While not all motor vehicle accidents result in serious injuries, in the worst cases they could lead to death. In the 10 year period between 2000 and 2010, at least 11,000 people died throughout the nation due to drivers who were too tired to be driving. Most would agree these deaths were unnecessary.
Unlike many driver behaviors, drowsy driving is difficult to regulate. In addition to many drivers not even thinking about it as being an issue, everyone needs a different amount of it to operate at a certain level. Moreover, there is not a test that law enforcement can administer to determine whether a driver it too tired to safely operated a vehicle. At this point it really is up to each driver to think about whether they should be getting behind the wheel of a car.
Source: Associated Press, “Drowsy Driving Remains an Elusive Highway Dilemma,” Frank Eltman, May 11, 2013