Fatigue Is a Major Problem for All of Us

November 12th, 2018 by Attorney John Colvin

Fatigue Is a Major Problem for All of Us

While there was a safety campaign the first week of November called Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, the message behind the campaign is one that we should carry with us year-round. Being sleepy is more than just annoying. In fact, it can be downright dangerous to us, to our loved ones, and for people in the community.

Driving Without Rest Is Like Driving Intoxicated

Have you ever been so exhausted that you felt like your mind couldn’t take in information quickly enough? Or that your reflexes were somehow “off?” You weren’t mistaken. When you stay up for extended periods without getting sleep, your brain function suffers.

As the National Sleep Foundation notes, spending just 24 hours awake affects drivers the same way as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.10 percent. To give some context to that number, Tennessee considers a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater as being over the legal limit to safely operate a car, truck, SUV, van, motorcycle, etc. Therefore, if you don’t sleep for a day and start to drive anywhere, you’re bound to be distracted.

Basically, if you wouldn’t dream of getting into your Ford, Toyota, or Honda after having a few drinks, you shouldn’t consider slipping behind the wheel if you haven’t slept for a long enough time. Not only could you put your life at risk, but you could seriously harm or kill someone else.

Car Accidents Attributed to Drowsy Driving

How significant is the chance that your sleeplessness or insomnia would play a role in a traffic incident? According to a study released in 2015 by the Governors Highway Safety Association, fatigued driving factors into about 16.5 percent of fatal crashes each year. Using that figure, we can surmise that of the 1,043 fatal accidents that occurred in Tennessee in 2017, around 172 likely had links to a driver who was sleepy.

Ironically, many people who are tired tell themselves that they can just “push through” their lack of sleep and drive a few more miles. But with each passing minute, they become a greater threat. Sleepy drivers can veer off the roads, have poorer reflexes, and make inappropriate decisions. Some even fall asleep at the wheel or nod off at intervals while driving at high speeds.

Know the Warning Signals of Fatigue

How can our communities stop the problem of drowsy driving? Drowsy Driving Prevention Week was simply a springboard to better understand how to spot drowsiness. Consequently, if you see signs of fatigue in yourself or someone else, you should put the brakes on–literally.

Some of the red flags that indicate a driver is too tired to drive include:

  • Turning up the radio or blasting cold air to “wake up.”
  • Making a lot of errors, such as driving onto the side of the road or sidewalk, or going the wrong way.
  • Yawning repeatedly.
  • Forgetting how he or she got to a certain point.
  • Closing his or her eyes and then being startled awake.
  • Driving too fast or slowly for conditions or traffic patterns.
  • Being confused as to how to follow a familiar route.

These are all symptoms of being too drowsy to properly drive for personal or work reasons.

What should you do if these signs are familiar? If you’re the one driving, pull over at a safe place and get a nap. Even 30 minutes of decent sleep followed by a little activity (e.g., taking a brisk walk, going to a convenience store bathroom, getting food with protein, drinking water) can reverse some of the immediate effects of drowsy driving.

Of course, if you’re in the vehicle with a tired driver and you can legally drive in Tennessee, ask to take over the driving. Even if you don’t love to drive, you will be a more suitable operator than someone who just needs to get rest.

As a final note, remember that guidelines for adult sleep habits recommend anywhere from seven to nine hours a night for optimal sleep. Constantly feeling tired without other reasons such as medical problems may mean you need to go to bed earlier. Try setting a “bedtime alarm” to force yourself to get the zzzs you deserve.

Been hurt in a Tennessee car accident linked to a drowsy driver? Contact John R. Colvin to discuss your potential case during a free initial consultation.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama