Published On: Fri, Aug 16th, 2013

Fatigue Behind the Wheel: How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Driving

Fatigue Behind the Wheel: How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your DrivingYou probably already know how dangerous it is to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but did you know that driving while exhausted impairs your ability to see and react to problems just as much?

In an accident, the difference between a few seconds could potentially mean your life, which is why it’s important to maintain the quickest reaction time that you possibly can.

Signs That You May Be Too Tired to Drive

Centra Care, a Florida urgent care hospital, states that sleep deprivation can have many causes. Existing medical conditions, medications, sleep disorders, and lifestyle factors all may contribute. And just because you can talk and move about doesn’t mean that you are not too exhausted to drive safely.

Watch out for warning signs, including frequent yawning, irritability and strained eyes. If you find yourself repeatedly blinking, squinting or trying harder than you normally would to focus on the road, it’s time to get some rest.

Driving while fatigued is a form of impairment, and you could find yourself being pulled over by police. Indeed, some symptoms of sleep deprivation can mimic intoxication and even skew the results of sobriety tests. Katz & Phillips, a Gainesville DUI lawyer firm, says that anxiety, nervousness, and being slow to respond are all signs of drinking too much. But sleep deprived drivers may also exhibit these indicators.

Drivers who are under extreme fatigue may actually experience short bursts of sleep without even being aware of it. Your eyes may be open, but if you are zoned out and daydreaming, an accident could easily occur. If you are a passenger in a car, watch your driver for any of these signs, and pay careful attention to whether or not they miss any exits, run any red lights or do anything else that could indicate they aren’t really paying attention.

Situations That Can Cause Drivers to be Sleepy

Anyone can experience fatigue while driving, but certain situations are likely to produce more danger, such as very long road trips. Fatigued driving is most common among truck drivers, who often travel very long distances without a break.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that people in their teens and twenties account for most of the accidents related to tired driving. Young people are more likely to stay out late and push their bodies to the limit compared to older folks. This lack of sleep, combined with their lack of driving experience, could be a a major contributing factor in teen accidents.

Things You Can Do to Avoid Driving While Tired

The easiest way to avoid an accident is to simply never drive while tired. You can do this by planning your route ahead of time, listening to music or radio that you find mentally stimulating, driving with the window down or air conditioning turned up for the stimulation benefits of cool air, and switching off with another driver whenever you can.

While you are the passenger, take a nap. Even a short break from reality will recharge you and get you ready to drive again. If none of these options are possible, stop and find a hotel. Or just pull over on the side of the road, get out, walk around and stretch a bit. It’s not ideal, but it’s far better than having an accident.

The only guaranteed way to avoid a fatigued-driving accident is to commit to resting when you need to. Life doesn’t always go as planned, and there are times when you will find yourself on the road while exhausted. But as long as you are willing to stop and get some sleep, you will be fine.

Remember that no matter where you are headed, it will still be there waiting for you tomorrow. No appointment, meeting or destination could ever be more important than your life.

Richard Freeland is a landscape architect and avid traveler who, when driving for work or pleasure, has at times driven while fatigued. He doesn’t recommend it. Gainesville DUI lawyer Katz & Phillips, P.A., understands that sleep deprivation can sometimes pass for intoxication, and works hard to protect clients arrested for DUI when they were instead sleep deprived, making sure they¬†get a fair hearing and that justice is done.

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