Long days with less daylight often leave us with less energy at the end of the day. Unfortunately, if people get behind the wheel of a car while fatigued, they may put themselves, their passengers and others on the road in danger. How might fatigued drivers impact your safety?

Fatigue has a variety of cognitive effects.

Cognitive distraction occurs when the mind wanders from the task at hand. Often, this distraction occurs behind the wheel when drivers are mentally multitasking, but it can also occur because they have not had enough rest. When fatigued drivers take to the road, that exhaustion can make it difficult for drivers to focus.

A lack of focus is not the only way that a lack of proper sleep can impact a person’s cognitive abilities. Sleep deprivation can interfere with the ability to make sound decisions, and it can make people more irritable. All of this can impact their performance behind the wheel.

Driver fatigue can be as dangerous as alcohol consumption in some cases.

While many people know about the dangers of driving while drunk, they might be surprised to know that fatigue can have as much of an impact on driver safety as a higher blood alcohol content (BAC). After 18 hours awake, a person’s cognitive abilities are impaired as much as those of a person with a BAC of .05, and a full day awake has more of an impact than driving above the legal limit of alcohol. Also, as the Centers for Disease Control notes, drowsiness increases how much alcohol impacts a person.

Because of how much fatigue can impact a person’s ability to drive safely, driver fatigue can easily cause accidents. These accidents lead to thousands of injuries each year, some of which are fatal. If you were harmed by a drowsy driver, you may want to explore your options for holding them responsible and to get the support you need to move forward.