man yawning in the rearview mirror

5 Common Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Drowsy driving poses significant risks not only to drivers but also to everyone on the road. Fatigue can impact a person’s reflexes, judgment, and overall ability to drive safely. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 684 deaths resulting from accidents related to drowsy driving in 2021. Understanding the dangers associated with this condition is essential to promote safer roads and reduce traffic accidents.

What Is Drowsy Driving?

Drowsy driving occurs when a person operates a vehicle while feeling fatigued or overly tired. Several factors can contribute to this state, including lack of adequate sleep, long hours behind the wheel, certain medications, or untreated sleep disorders. When a driver is drowsy, their attention, reaction time, and decision-making abilities are significantly impaired, making it a major road safety concern.

5 Common Dangers Associated with Drowsy Driving

1. Decreased Reaction Time 

Decreased reaction time is a direct consequence of drowsiness and fatigue. When a driver is tired, their ability to respond promptly to sudden events or changes in the driving environment diminishes. This delay in response can be critical, especially in emergency situations, increasing the likelihood of accidents and collisions on the road.

2. Impaired Judgment  

Impaired judgment, stemming from fatigue, can cloud a driver’s ability to make sound decisions on the road. Drowsy drivers may struggle to assess situations correctly, misjudge distances, or even underestimate the risks of certain maneuvers. Such lapses in judgment can lead to risky behaviors, further elevating the chances of vehicular accidents.

3. Microsleeps 

Microsleeps are brief, involuntary episodes of unconsciousness that can last from a fraction of a second to several seconds. While experiencing microsleep, a driver might appear awake but is momentarily unresponsive to their surroundings. These short lapses can be especially dangerous when driving, as even a few seconds of inattention can lead to catastrophic consequences on the road.

4. Higher Risk of Crashes 

Driving while drowsy significantly elevates the risk of vehicular accidents. The combined effects of impaired judgment, decreased reaction time, and microsleeps mean that fatigued drivers may fail to notice or react to hazards in time. As a result, drowsy driving is responsible for a substantial number of collisions each year, emphasizing the need for increased awareness and preventive measures.

5. Long-Term Health Impacts 

Consistently driving while drowsy can have broader implications for one’s health beyond the immediate danger of an accident. Chronic fatigue and regular sleep deprivation can lead to conditions like heart disease, hypertension, and a weakened immune system. Moreover, the stress and mental strain of recurrent drowsy driving can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Legal Consequences in Mississippi

In Mississippi, drowsy driving can be deemed as negligent or reckless behavior if it leads to an accident. Victims of accidents caused by drowsy drivers can pursue personal injury claims, potentially resulting in significant financial liabilities for the at-fault party.

Tips to Prevent Drowsy Driving

It’s crucial to prioritize safety by taking proactive measures against drowsy driving. Here are some tips to help ensure you remain alert and attentive behind the wheel:

  • Know the Signs: Recognize when you’re feeling fatigued. Common indicators include heavy eyelids, frequent yawning, and difficulty remembering the last few miles driven. If these signs emerge, it’s a clear signal you should pull over and rest.
  • Take Regular Breaks: If you’re on a long drive, ensure you stop every couple of hours or every 100 miles. Stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and if possible, take a short nap to refresh yourself.
  • Avoid Alcohol and Certain Medications: Even small amounts of alcohol can intensify drowsiness. Similarly, some medications have side effects that cause fatigue. Always check labels and consult with a pharmacist or doctor if you’re unsure about driving after consumption.
  • Stay Regular with Sleep: Ensure you’re getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night, especially before long drives. Establishing a regular sleep schedule helps in maintaining alertness during daytime activities, including driving.
  • Travel with a Buddy: If you’re embarking on a long journey, consider traveling with a companion. They can help keep you engaged and share the driving responsibility, allowing each person to rest while the other drives.

Get Help if You’ve Been Impacted by Drowsy Driving

Driving alert and attentive is paramount to ensuring the safety of not only the driver but everyone on the road. Making responsible choices can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and their associated repercussions. If you or a loved one has been impacted by a drowsy driving incident, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chatham Gilder Howell Pittman for experienced legal guidance and support.

About the Author
Jefferson D. Gilder is a Partner at Chatham Gilder Howell Pittman and was admitted to the Mississippi and Tennessee Bars in 1990. Mr. Gilder is admitted to practice in all courts in Mississippi and Tennessee including Federal Court, the Fifth and Sixth Circuit Courts of Appeal, and the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Gilder's areas of practice include personal injury, criminal, medical malpractice, civil rights, and product liability. Mr. Gilder spent his first ten years as an attorney practicing with his father, Robert G. Gilder, at Gilder Law Firm in Southaven, Mississippi before forming Gilder, Howell & Assoc., P.A. with Jamie W. Howell, Jr. in June of 2000. This firm although as another legal entity has now combined their resources and experience with Chatham – Pittman, to form Chatham Gilder Howell Pittman. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Jefferson through our contact page.