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Discover how to avoid drowsy driving when traveling this holiday seasonGetting into a car crash is likely not how you want to spend your time while traveling to visit family this holiday season. However, it very well can happen to you or someone you love when foregoing sleep in the hustle and bustle of the traveling this holiday season.

Driver fatigue is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Getting behind the wheel while drowsy is a form of driver inattention and can have grave, sometimes fatal consequences that put you, your passengers and other drivers at risk of injury or death. Being tired when you’re behind the wheel can slow down your thought processes and lead to decreased reaction times, make you have difficulty focusing, affect your vision and judgment, impair your senses, and cause you to nod off or fall asleep while on the road.

According to a 2016 report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the risk of being involved in a car crash rises dramatically with only one or two hours of sleep less than the recommended average of at least seven hours of sleep per night. The findings showed that the less sleep a driver gets, the higher the crash rate. For example, drivers in the study who got only four or five hours of slumber were estimated to experience four times the crash rate — which, essentially, is similar to crash rates among drunk drivers in the U.S. who drive while at or slightly above the legal blood alcohol limit.

Raising Awareness About Driver Fatigue

To increase awareness of the dangers of driving while drowsy, the National Sleep Foundation designates November 5-12 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. Through education, research and accessible communication tools, this annual outreach campaign aims to reduce the number of sleep deprived drivers on our roads and highways.

In 2011, the Florida Legislator passed the Ronshay Dugans Act, which designates the first week of September as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. It was created to honor the memory of 8-year-old Ronshay Dugans, who was killed when her school bus was hit by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel in 2008, and to educate the public on the dangers of driving while drowsy.

Causes of Driver Fatigue

Two primary causes of drowsy driving include 1) the lack of adequate, quality sleep, and 2) driving at times of the day when you would normally be sleeping. Commercial truck drivers, graveyard shift workers and people with undiagnosed or untreated disorders, such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy, are at an increased risk for crashes that result from driving fatigue.

How To Prevent Driver Fatigue

There are a few simple steps you can take to prevent drowsy driving.

  • Get adequate sleep before driving. Although drinking a cup of coffee may help you temporary stay alert, it is no substitute for a good night’s sleep. If you have been awake for more than 24 hours, driving is not safe for you or anyone else on the road.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before driving long distances. Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without overindulging, and skip that glass of wine. Even a small amount of alcohol can make you drowsy enough to fall asleep behind the wheel.
  • On long trips, take a break every 100 miles or every two hours. Get out of your car and walk around to get your blood flowing and to get some fresh air.
  • If your eyelids feel heavy and you are having difficulty focusing, pull over and find a safe, well-lit place to rest. A 20-minute power nap can give you the energy you need to make it home safely.
  • Use the “buddy system” and switch drivers as needed. Do not drive more than 8-10 hours per day.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination so you don’t feel the need to push yourself if you are tired.
  • Avoid driving after taking medications that cause drowsiness. Always read the warning labels on both prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Everyone wants to safely reach their destinations this holiday season. By practicing safe driving habits, we all will be more likely to enjoy a safe and festive holiday season with family and friends.

If You Have Been Hurt in an Accident Due to Driver Fatigue, We Can Help

If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by a drowsy driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Our experienced personal injury attorneys will assess your case and help you determine the best course of action to get you the compensation you deserve. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Lowman Law Firm in Citrus County at 352-888-4484or toll-free at 866-9-LOWMAN.

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