Millions of Americans get behind the wheel each day with coffee in hand. Whether they are commuting to the office, on a long road trip or simply in need of some caffeine to wake up, people rely upon coffee and energy drinks to keep them alert while driving. Unfortunately, though, caffeine is often not enough to keep drivers fully awake. An estimated one in 25 drivers reported falling asleep in the last 30 days to the Centers for Disease Control. While most people would never dream of driving drunk, driving drowsy is incredibly common. Here are five surprising statistics that may provide the wake-up call you need to never drive drowsy again:
Fatigue Increases Accident Likelihood from 11 to 65 Percent
Motorists routinely do things to reduce the chances of an accident. We turn off our cell phones, minimize distractions and drive defensively whenever possible. Unfortunately, though, we also drive when we haven’t had enough sleep at night. Whether first thing in the morning after too little sleep or late in the evening after a long day, drowsy drivers increase their odds of being in an accident. When we’re tired, it can be difficult to focus on the task at hand, and our reaction times become delayed. This combination of factors leads to a staggering increase in the likelihood of a wreck.
Most Drowsy Driving Collisions Occur Between Midnight and Six AM
Sleepiness can occur at any time of the day. Morning light shining through the trees can lull drivers into a drowsy state, while afternoon breezes provide the perfect white noise for a nap. Still, studies have shown that you’re more likely to be involved in a drunk driving crash in the quietest hours of the morning. Driving between midnight and six AM challenges motorists to fight their Circadian rhythm. Consequently, they are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel. Professional truck drivers who are on a deadline frequent face the battle to stay awake while driving, but anyone who takes to the road during this time period risks driving drowsily.
Drowsy Driving Leads to 1.2 Million Crashes Annually
While most of us have driven while tired before, it can be hard to comprehend just how dangerous drowsy driving actually is. Reports show, though, that more than a million collisions occur each year because of drowsiness. These accidents result in more than $109 billion in costs annually, not including any property damage done in the collisions. Of course, the most significant toll is the number of human lives lost: low-end estimates total more than 800 each year, on average. While cars can be repaired and bills can be paid, there’s no turning back time to prevent the lost loved ones who are killed in these accidents each year.
More Than Half of Drowsy Driving Accidents Involve Drivers Under 30
Youth is often associated with risky behavior. While driving while drowsy might not fit the devil-may-care profile often linked with young adults, it’s more common than you might expect. Studies show that 56 percent of drowsy drivers involved in accidents in 2015 were under the age of 30. Elderly drivers were also more likely to drive drowsy than those between the ages of 30 and 60. This statistic just goes to show that you’re never too young – or too old – to make careless decisions behind the wheel.
Drivers Operating on Less Than Five Hours Sleep Have a Crash Risk Similar to Drunk Drivers
Drunk driving has been the subject of countless ad campaigns over the years. Most people take action to prevent driving under the influence by taking cabs, calling a designated driver or not overindulging at the bar. Unfortunately, though, drowsy driving has only received attention in recent years. Though not as attention-getting, drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Reports show that motorists running on fewer than five hours of sleep are just as likely to be involved in a wreck as those with a blood alcohol content level of .08 – the legal limit in many states.
Take Action Against Drowsy Driving
The next time you’re hitting the road, take an honest inventory of how tired you feel. Consider how long you’ve been awake, how many hours rest you got the previous night and how long you plan to be behind the wheel. By reflecting on your fatigue levels, you’ll become more aware of the risks you’re taking.
You can also take action to prevent driving drowsy altogether. If you know you have to drive in the next 24 hours, make time to sleep at least seven hours before starting your trip. While caffeine can help you become more alert upon wake up, it’s no substitute for quality rest. Plan ahead and have a co-pilot who can take over driving whenever you feel tired. These simple steps can ensure you arrive at your destination safely.