The Serious Dangers of Distracted and Drowsy Driving

Local law enforcement and highway patrol outfits have become increasingly more effective at cracking down on those who make the terrible decision to drive inebriated. We all see the commercials and electronic road signs stating something similar to “You Drink.. You Drive.. You Lose.” or “DUI Decide Before You Drive”. This campaign has certainly made the public more aware of the dangers associated with drinking and driving and the costs if you are found guilty of the act. Much less has been done to make drivers more aware of the dangers associated with driving drowsy or distracted driving. The facts and figures continue to mount outlining the increased risks of each act. While in recent years, most states have made it illegal to text and drive, many other acts while driving remain legal, and there is very little being done across the country to address the dangers of drowsy driving.

Distracted Driving.. What is it and are we all guilty?

There aren’t many people today who are unaware of the dangers associated with texting and driving. It has become a new focus of many traffic enforcement agencies as the number of crashes have skyrocketed due to this ill-advised act. In many states this has a “primary enforcement” level meaning an officer can pull a driver over without any other offense taking place. In roughly a dozen states, this law is carried over to all hand held phone use which has been more effective in deterring phone use by drivers. Law Enforcement has become increasingly more effective in spotting cell phone offenders but the onus is on us as individuals to keep our phones away and focus on the road.

Distracted driving extends beyond cell phone use in the car. While the cell phone is a principal offender, other acts such as eating and drinking, fumbling with navigation units, spending too much time adjusting the audio, talking with passengers, and grooming or putting on makeup all increase the likelihood of an accident. While the fatalities associated with distracted driving has decreased slightly over the last couple years, injuries associated with such and the number of crashes overall continue to steadily increase. Most alarming is the age group with the highest percentage of distracted driving fatalities relative to the amount of drivers on the road belong to drivers under 20. Not eliminating these habits in the most inexperienced of drivers is a mistake parents and communities must work harder not to commit. However, the onus is again on the driver to understand that while they possess a drivers license, most are far poorer drivers than they realize. Any trip near a local high school around 3pm can surely attest to that.

Drowsy Driving.. Drunk Driving’s Just-As Fatal Cousin

In recent studies conducted over the last 10 years, 60% of all drivers have admitted to driving drowsy with 37% actually reported falling asleep behind the wheel. In an increasingly fast paced, round the clock working environment coupled with children and household responsibilities it is easy to see why a majority of us feel tired a lot of the time. The ever more normal 10+ hour workday and loaded schedules of our children have all of us driving around town “on fumes.” While most drivers recognize the dangers of driving while intoxicated and would never do so, far fewer ignore the dangers of drowsy driving. This is often a costly and fatal mistake as roughly 2000 crashes yearly can be attributed to drowsy driving. Likely the actual numbers are much higher as it is still difficult to determine whether or not drowsy driving was a contributing factor.

Unfortunately some inferential evidence suggest that similar characteristics in drowsy related crashes suggest a more serious outcome than those occurring due to other driving faults. Generally drowsy driving accidents occur on high speed roadways where a vehicle generally leaves the road completely making no attempt to avoid a collision. Often times the driver is unaware they have drifted from the highway and is usually alone during times of day where the roads are scarcely traveled. This makes a fast response time by emergency personnel very unlikely which undoubtedly increases the chance of serious injury or death. In no way is this meant to discount the dangers of driving while intoxicated, only to serve warning that when you make the decision to drive drowsy you are effectively getting behind the wheel in a similar state as someone who has been drinking.

Whether it’s sending a text, putting on your makeup, reaching for that sandwich, or drowsy driving, most of us are guilty of one of these offenses. Many of us believe we are good drivers that can manage to get from point A to point B safely with less than our full attention. With the number of distracted or drowsy driving crashes continuing to climb this is clearly false. Driving a car is a responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. You and the drivers around you have too much to lose in an accident and while some may be unavoidable, eliminating these dangerous driving habits are.

About the author:

This article was written by Brian Levesque.  Brian is the manager and a car rental company in Atlanta, GA and has a great passion for the car industry.  He has been contributing content to due to this interest.  You can find him on Google+ to learn more about Brian.

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