You Snooze You Lose: The Dangers of Fatigued Driving

What is perhaps more shocking is the 15% who admitted to falling asleep while driving in the past year.

Fatigue causes accidents

Fatigue-impaired driving puts Canadians at risk on the roads every day. 20% of fatal collisions involve driver fatigue. Fatigue is a particularly widespread issue, as 60% of Canadian drivers admitted that they occasionally drove while fatigued. What is perhaps more shocking is the 15% who admitted to falling asleep while driving in the past year.

Although driving is automatic for many people, fatigue impairs one’s cognitive functioning which can lead to disastrous results behind the wheel. Reaction time is negatively affected by a lack of sleep, and those few seconds of drowsiness or inattention can reduce a driver’s ability to navigate safely.

How to tell if you are fatigued while driving

The following clues may indicate a driver is too fatigued to be behind the wheel:

  • Excessive yawning and blinking

  • Drifting out of the lane onto the shoulder or into the other lane

  • Missing an exit

  • Accidental changes in speed, especially slowing down

  • Not remembering the past few kilometers

  • Closing eyes for longer than usual or eyes going out of focus

Fatigue is more likely to set in at times when drivers are less alert. Based on circadian rhythms, this time is likely to be between 2:00-4:00 a.m. and 2:00-4:00 p.m. Being aware of these peak drowsiness times may help drivers recognize the effects of drowsiness in time to prevent a collision.

Impacts of driving drowsy

Driving while fatigued can result in accidents and injury to self and others. Since reaction time is compromised, driving becomes more difficult and more dangerous. Emerging research on microsleeps suggests that sleep can occur without someone being aware of it. These microsleeps can affect anyone but are most common in those with sleep disorders and night shift workers. They can range from less than a second to two minutes, and consequently can be dangerous for drivers. Drivers who experience microsleeps tend to continue driving rather than pulling over to take a break.

How to combat fatigue while driving

In order to make sure they are not posing a fatigue-induced risk on the roads, drivers should engage in the following:

  • Get enough sleep prior to driving

  • Stop at a rest stop to take breaks from driving by walking around or having a nap

  • Share the driving time with another passenger in the vehicle if possible

  • Keep the vehicle ventilated

  • Snack lightly

  • Drink water

  • Listen to the radio

  • Avoid caffeine – fatigue sets in when it wears off

Enforcing alert driving

There is currently no law against driving while tired, however, there are other ways to ensure that the roads are as safe as they can be in this regard. Since the effects of fatigued driving can be similar to impaired or distracted driving, there ought to be accountability for the results. It can be difficult to prove that a driver was fatigued since there are no tests that measure this. However, a fatigued driver has the same responsibilities as any other driver on the road.

If you have been injured at the hands of a fatigued driver, you may have a claim for damages. The personal injury lawyers at MacGillivray Injury and Insurance Law have been fighting for the rights of car accident victims since 1994. Contact us today to book a free consultation.