Drowsy Driving

By: P. Christopher Guedri

Drowsy driving is a huge threat to safety on America’s roads. According to a AAA study, 41% of drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel at some point, with 10% having done so in the pas year. And these are just the ones who actually fell asleep. More than 25% in drivers admit to driving while having difficulty staying awake within the last month.[1]

                Drowsy driving is particularly dangerous because it can be so difficult to recognize. In the early stages of fatigue, the driver may well be unaware that their response time is decreasing and their attention is wandering. However, there are early signs of drowsiness to watch out for. Drifting out of your lane, wandering and disconnected thoughts, and missing your turn or exit are all early indicators that you are pushing your limits. Later, you may have trouble keeping your head up and your eyes open. If you reach the point where you are yawning and rubbing your eyes repeatedly, or can’t remember how far you’ve traveled, get off the road immediately. A car moving at highway speeds is a dangerous weapon, and you’re about to lose control of yours.

                Fatigue affects everybody at some point, but there are some things you can do to ward off dangerous levels of drowsiness:

  • ·         Get plenty of sleep the night before a long trip. Even though you’re not moving, driving is a draining activity.
  • ·         Drive during times that you’re normally awake. Your body operates in a rhythm, and trying to drive through the night will be difficult even if you are well-rested. Planning to work all day and then drive all night is very dangerous.
  • ·         Schedule breaks in your trip. Even stopping for just a few minutes to stretch your legs can break up the monotony and prevent the drive from lulling you to sleep. Try not to drive more than two hours without at least a shirt break.
  • ·         Drink caffeine. Caffeine takes half and hour to enter the bloodstream, and a drink followed by a thirty minute nap can work wonders.
  • ·         Travel with an awake passenger. Talking and interacting helps keep the mind awake and engaged. The most dangerous situation is driving alone or with a car full of sleeping passengers at night.

Fatigue is such a huge problem because it has the potential to affect every driver on the road, causing them to completely lose control of their vehicle. Even if they don’t fall completely asleep, the delayed reaction times of drowsy drivers lead to dangerous and even deadly situations. Recognizing the pervasive nature of this threat, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has devoted new resources to the problem, commissioning several studies on preventing drowsy driving. Visit their website at www.aaafoundation.org to see the latest findings.

        Drowsy driving is a worrying phenomenon, but it can be beaten through sound driving practices and personal responsibility. Remember to never prioritize a timely arrival over a safe journey, and stay alert in your travels.

About the Author: Richmond attorney Chris Guedri is a skilled and experience litigator. After practicing law for more than 30 years, Chris understands the complexities and intricacies of the Richmond court system. For more than 15 years in a row his fellow attorneys have voted Chris into the publication The Best Lawyers in America, and in 2008 he was inducted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. According to Virginia Business Magazine Chris ranks among the “Legal Elite Best Lawyers in Virginia,” a distinctive honor.

[1] Visit the AAA website for more information on drowsy driving: https://midatlantic.aaa.com/Foundation/~/link.aspx?_id=157DB43D3E40447493705C60C2E2E373&_z=z

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