In the last several years, drivers have become more and more aware of the dangers of distracted driving, particularly texting while driving. However, distracted driving isn’t the only danger drivers need to prevent. They also need to avoid driving while drowsy, which causes a significant number of accidents on Pennsylvania roadways.

The dangers of drowsy driving

About half of Americans admit to driving while drowsy. Even more concerning though is that one in 25 drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC also estimates that each year, drowsy drivers cause about 6,000 fatal accidents. Drowsy driving accidents most often occur on rural roads and highways and when a vehicle is occupied by only one driver (no passengers).

Factors involved in drowsy driving accidents

Most drowsy driving accidents occur between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the late afternoon, when people experience dips in their circadian rhythms and are more likely to be sleepy. Drivers who are at more risk of becoming drowsy behind the wheel include:

  • Drivers who have untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea
  • Drivers who regularly don’t get enough sleep
  • Commercial drivers, such as truck and bus drivers
  • Drivers who work long shifts or who work night shifts
  • Drivers who use medications that cause drowsiness

Preventing drowsy driving

Preventing drowsy driving is possible. First, drivers need to recognize the signs of drowsy driving, which include the following:

  • Blinking or yawning frequently.
  • Zoning out and not remembering the last few miles you’ve driven.
  • Missing your exit.
  • Drifting out of your lane or drifting into the road’s off shoulder.

When drivers realize they are too tired to drive, they need to find a rest stop and take a break. Or have another driver in their vehicle take over driving for a while. Drivers who use medications that make them drowsy need to avoid taking those shortly before driving.

No one wants to find themselves waking up after dozing off behind the wheel. Even more terrifying is if you fell asleep behind the wheel and caused a serious accident, perhaps even killing another driver or a passenger in your vehicle. Making sure you are alert enough to drive is as important, just as important as avoiding using your cell phone behind the wheel.