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The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

There are many studies and articles out there on drinking and driving and other substance abuse. One very dangerous act that often goes under the radar is drowsy driving. It is easy to point the finger at alcohol and substance abuse but tiredness seems much more innocent in comparison. It is not. Fatigued drivers are as dangerous as impaired drivers. Fatigue greatly affects response time. In an ICBC survey dated back to June 2013, close to a third of respondents stated that they have nodded off while driving in their lives. This is a shocking figure considering the how serious the consequences can be. Furthermore, 43% admitted to driving while they were drowsy sometime in the past year. This figure could be higher as driver fatigue is self-reported and as a result, often under-reported.

There is a peak of driver fatigue in in BC during July and August, the summer months. A lot of these incidents involve people going on or coming back from long-weekend road trips. The most common reason seems to be that people are either trying to get a head start to beat the traffic so they get up extra early, or they continue to drive even after a long exhausting day to return home. Most collisions involving tired drivers occur between 3am and 9am. Jill Blacklock, road-safety manger from ICBC said that on average, there are 4 deaths and 83 injuries in the province due to drowsy driving in each of those summer months.

There are a number of challenges in tackling drowsy driving. For example, there is no test to administer for the level of fatigue unlike for alcohol where there is a breathalyzer test and other tests. There is little training in identifying fatigue or sleep as the cause of a crash and the reporting practices are inconsistent. Additionally, as mentioned above, many cases of drowsy driving are self-reported, which makes it unreliable.

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s poll from 2005, the people most at risk are young men, adults with children, and shift workers.

Warning signs of drowsy driving are the following:

  • Yawning
  • Daydreaming
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Not noticing other cars until they pass by
  • Not noticing the surroundings
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Frequent blinking
  • Feeling irritable
  • Accidentally crossing over into the next lane

If you notice any of these signs while driving, considering taking a break immediately. An alternative is parking your car safely and securing a ride from a friend or taking other forms of transportation home. Prevent accidents happening due to drowsy driving.

(Additional sources: The Globe and Mail, DrowsyDriving.org)

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