While we are well aware of the dangers that face drunk drivers, studies show that drowsy driving may be just as harmful and an all too frequent occurrence. Driving while drowsy is very similar to distracted and drunk driving. It slows your reaction time, impairs your vision and affects your ability to make decisions. Cognitive impairment after approximately 17 hours of being awake was equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.05%, after 24 hours impairment is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10%.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 60% of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37% admit to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths. (NHTAS). Despite these high numbers drowsy driving remains underreported and estimates are conservative.
While there are no laws in place in Florida regulating drowsy driving, Florida has passed the” Ronshay Dugans Act.” The Act designates the first week of September as “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.” During this week the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles works with the Department of Transportation to educate law enforcement and the public about the dangers of operating a vehicle while fatigued. (2010 Fla. Laws ch 223)
If you feel drowsy, don’t fight to stay awake; rather pull over somewhere safe to take a nap, park your car and call a cab, and take scheduled breaks if going on a long trip. Signs that you should stop include heavy eyelids or difficulty focusing, trouble keeping your head up, feeling restless, yawning, drifting from your lane, and trouble remembering the last few miles driven.