Almost everyone who has driven a car before has at some point in his or her driving history experienced a decrease in alertness, a phenomenon also known as micro-sleep. These brief actions can be caused from not obtaining the adequate amount of sleep that your body demands. So what is micro-sleep?
Micro-sleep is brief, unintended episodes of loss of attention associated with events such as blank stare, head snapping, and prolonged eye closure, which may occur when a person is fatigued but trying to stay awake to perform a monotonous task like driving a car or watching a computer screen. The episodes can last anywhere from five-to-ten seconds.
During micro-sleep, your eyelids will start to droop and you will start to lose contact with reality; suddenly, you are asleep for a few seconds, and then wake up with a jolt. Drivers can commonly tell whether they experienced micro-sleep because of the sudden head-jerk when you wake up. According to the Department of Transportation, it is estimated that almost 20% of accidents on dull, major roads, are sleep-related.
Research has identified young males, shift workers, commercial drivers and people with untreated sleep disorders as being at an increased risk for having a fall-asleep crash. As an experienced, Fort Smith personal-injury lawyer, I have dealt with countless victims who have been severely injured by a “drowsy” driver. Each time you get behind the wheel of a car you should always consider whether the following risk factors apply to you:
- Sleep-deprived or fatigued (6 hours of sleep or less triples your risk)
- Driving long distances without proper rest breaks
- Driving through the night, mid-afternoon or when you would normally be asleep
- Taking sedating medications (antidepressants, cold tablets, antihistamines)
- Working more than 60 hours a week (increases your risk by 40%)
- Working more than one job and your main job involves shift work
- Drinking even small amounts of alcohol
- Driving alone or on a long, rural, dark or boring road
To prevent driving drowsy you should try to get adequate sleep amounts, usually seven-to-nine hours, schedule proper breaks, arrange for a travel companion, and avoid alcohol and sedating medications. At McCutchen Buckley – The Law Firm, we care about the safety of others. With over 100,000 crashes each year being caused by fatigued drivers, let’s speak out and make a difference by promoting Drowsy Driving Prevention Week from November 2-9, 2014.
For more information please visit drowsydriving.org.