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The Dangers of Driving While Exhausted

Posted on 06/24/24 by admin in Auto Accidents

Summer road trip season is in full swing, as friends and families pack up and hit the highways. The feeling of freedom, wanderlust, and adventure we experience out on the open road is a part of the American experience. This novelty can provide energy for long-haul drivers, as new and beautiful vistas come into view. But highway driving can quickly become an exhausting affair. The excitement of a road trip can only provide a finite amount of energy to a driver. When that energy subsides, the results can be disastrous. Drowsy, fatigued, or exhausted driving caused 693 fatalities in 2022, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Today’s Malloy Law Offices blog post will explore the hazards of driving while exhausted. We’ll speak in specifics about the ways in which fatigue behind the wheel contributes to accidents, and offer tips to minimize their effects, or prevent them entirely.

Driving while exhausted

The Facts and Figures of Driving While Exhausted

NHTSA readily admits that measuring the full impact of drowsy or exhausted driving is an inexact science. There is no accepted system for determining which accidents can be attributed in large part to the driver’s fatigue. After all, there is no measurable metric for sleepiness, nothing equivalent to a breathalyzer test to determine the severity of one’s fatigue.

What can be measured, however, are the real world consequences of lapses in concentration and consciousness. It’s not uncommon for severely sleep-deprived drivers to experience “micro naps.” Seconds-long losses of consciousness. Let’s say that a driver blacks out for five seconds whole traveling fifty-five miles an hour. That is a hundred yards of highway where the car is, in essence, driving out of control. The driver would have no way to avoid or stop short of any object, vehicle, or other obstacle within that hundred yard span.

Other symptoms of exhaustion behind the wheel include:

  • Difficulty maintaining focus
  • Difficulty keeping one’s eyes open or “heavy eyelids”
  • Missing road signs or signals
  • Inability to remember last few miles driven
  • Lane drifting, or hitting rumble strips
  • Sore eyes
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Wandering thoughts and eyes

If you’ve noticed that many of these symptoms are held in common with drunk or intoxicated driving; that is no coincidence. Indeed, the chemical effects of drowsiness and drunkenness on the brain are startlingly similar.

Driving while exhausted

The Simple Solution

Putting it bluntly: the most effective (and most obvious) way to minimize or prevent drowsy driving is to ensure a good night’s sleep before any extended drive. Long day on the road tomorrow? Get your eight hours. For those of us that suffer from pre-travel anxiety, which may prevent restful sleep the night before getting on the road, melatonin or magnesium supplements may help with falling asleep and staying asleep. These supplements can be procured at most pharmacies and supermarkets without any prescription or medical necessity. In addition, it may be wise to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages the night before setting off on a long road journey. Alcohol may lead to lower quality sleep and a more difficult period of waking up.

driving while exhausted

Navigating the Situation as it Emerges

Most drivers, suspecting that they’ve begun to hit a wall and wanting to avoid driving while exhausted, will generally seek a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage. While this can act as a short term palliative, it may actually create its own risks. These stimulants can actually lead to an illusion of drivers being more awake than they are. Sleep-deprived drivers wired on caffeine are still vulnerable to “micro naps” and other symptoms of driving while exhausted.

Another short-term solution may look something like this: find a rest stop, truck stop, or other parking lot which allows overnight parking (such as a Wal-Mart). Have a cup of coffee or two, and then close your eyes for a short nap, about twenty minutes to a half hour. This will lead to a longer, more sustained more stable groundswell of energy.

driving while exhausted

How Malloy Law Can Help

While you can behave responsibly to avoid driving while exhausted and minimize the effects of fatigue behind the wheel, you have no control over the conduct or preparedness of other drivers. If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of a drowsy driver, Malloy Law can help. Our experienced team of attorneys is home to the DC area’s car accident specialists. We have the resources and skill to claim the maximum compensation on your behalf. Contact Malloy Law today to get started.