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Car Accidents and Driver Fatigue

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 100 000 reported car accidents involve driver fatigue or driver fatigue, and the NHTSA warns that many more unreported crashes and near-collisions may be caused by tired drivers behind the wheel. Fatigue-related car accidents result in 71, 000 personal injuries, 1,500 deaths, and $12.5 billion in damages each year, according to the NHTSA. Tired drivers are a common problem, and the problem is costing lives.

Farmers Insurance has reported that over 10% of drivers have fallen asleep while driving while another 20% of drivers polled admitted to dozing briefly while driving. Men between ages 55 to 64 are most likely to fall asleep at the wheel. The problem is compounded by the fact that it is hard to determine whether fatigue has caused an accident. Breathalyzer tests can determine whether an accident is a drunk driving accident, but no similar test exists for sleepy driving. After an accident, the signs of driver fatigue may be hard to detect and prove.

According to Farmers Insurance, part of the problem seems to be driver under-education as well as driver recklessness. According to a Farmers Insurance survey, 41.2% of drivers claim they have continued to drive even while feeling drowsy. In the survey, 59% of drivers claimed that they turned on the air conditioning or opened a window when sleepy to waken themselves. Another 57.7% of drivers listened to music to stay awake, while 46.3% stopped to drink or eat to revive themselves. 42.3% of drivers surveyed said they used caffeine to try to stay awake. The problem is that while drivers may think that such activities are helping them stay safe on the road, according to American Institute of Chartered Personal Casualty such tactics not been proven to prevent sleep or drowsing off.

Experts agree that the only proven way to deal with drowsiness is to pull over and stop driving. Letting someone else take over the driving (assuming they are more rested) is one solution. If there is no one else in the car, it is a good idea to pull over and take a 20-minute nap. However, after napping it is important not to keep driving. After a nap, experts advise that drivers drive to the nearest spot – such as a friend’s home or a motel – for a proper sleep. When drivers are so tired that they are unsafe behind the wheel, proper rest is the only safe antidote.

In some cases, drivers are tired because they have an underlying condition or are not getting enough rest at night. A doctor’s visit and more sleep can often help cure these problems. Drivers who are routinely tired behind the wheel should also speak to their pharmacists – a bevy of over the counter and prescription medications can create drowsiness and sleepiness. It is essential to never drive after taking such medication.

In some cases, drivers become fatigued after driving for long distances. On long road trips, it is essential to stop every night for a good rest. As well, it is important to plan ahead. Driver need to rest well every two hours on the road. In many cases, it is safer to have two or more drivers per car, so that drivers can take shifts. On long trips, it is also best to plan to drive during daylight hours. Late nights and early mornings are when most fatigue-related car accidents take place.