According to national statistics, drowsy drivers are responsible for more than 300,000 crashes every year. Almost 6,500 of those crashes are fatal, and another 109,000 of drowsy driving crashes result in serious injuries for victims.
Driving fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. Many drowsy drivers exhibit similar driving behaviors while behind the wheel, including:
- Failure to realize they are driving over the posted speed limit;
- Following too close to the vehicle in front of them;
- Drifting into another lane, or completely off the road, and not realizing it; and
- Failing to stay awake and losing control of the vehicle they are driving.
Although drowsy driving can happen to any driver, commercial drivers have a higher risk of being fatigued while behind the wheel. Tractor trailer drivers and mass transit bus drivers are particularly vulnerable, due in part to the often irregular and long hours they work. These work schedules can wreak havoc on the driver’s natural sleep patterns and circadian rhythms.
This circadian rhythm is built into our brains, and the natural push for our brains for deep sleep is between the hours of 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. Many commercial drivers are already up – and often out – in the wee hours of the morning, depriving their brain and body of that deep sleep. People who work late night shifts also experience this same phenomenon.
Vehicle manufacturers, recognizing the dangers and prevalence of drowsy driving, are working on developing technology which would help keep drivers alert and decrease the number of fatigued driving crashes. Currently on the market are fatigue alarms which resemble Bluetooth earpieces. These alarms sense the wearer’s head movements and either buzz or vibrate when the head nods.
One company is currently perfecting a sensor that is placed in the fabric of the seat of a vehicle and measures the driver’s heart rate. A person who is sleeping as a much lower heart rate than someone who is awake. When the sensors measure a drop in heart rate, it alerts the driver through alarms.
No matter how safe we may be as drivers, there are those on the road who do not practice safe driving habits, putting us all at risk of being injured in a car crash. If you have suffered injuries caused by a negligent driver, contact a skilled North Carolina car accident attorney to find out what legal recourse you may have for your pain and loss.