When it comes to drowsy driving, professional drivers, train engineers and pilots may be at even higher risk.
Our Birmingham personal injury lawyers urge motorists to take seriously the risks of driving tired as safety advocates promote the message of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week: “Drive Alert – Arrive Alive.”
As we reported recently on our Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog, driver fatigue is one of the top causes of trucking accidents nationwide. Shift workers are already at high risk and health advocates continue to be concerned about the high number of truckers suffering from sleep apnea.
The Sleep Disorders Center of Alabama estimates more than 100,000 accidents a year are caused by sleepy drivers — and more than half of those involve drivers under the age of 25.
Now a report by the National Sleep Foundation contends commercial drivers of all kinds, including train engineers and pilots, may be at increased risk. About one-fourth of pilots and engineers said sleepiness affected their job performance at least once a week. About 1 in 5 pilots and 1 in 6 train operators and truck drivers admitted to sleepiness being the cause of a serious error or “near miss.”
“We should all be concerned that pilots and train operators report car crashes due to sleepiness at a rate that is six times greater than that of other workers,” said Dr. Sanjay Patel of Harvard Medical School.
Only about half report sleep satisfaction, with a majority or near majority saying they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep.
“The margin of error in these professions is extremely small, ” said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “As individuals and employers, we need to know more about how sleep improves performance.”
Of course, the rest of us are not immune. In fact, a driver who has been awake for 20 hours has the same reaction time as someone who is legally intoxicated, and may be taking four-second microsleeps without even realizing it. From Nov. 12 to Nov. 18, drivers are encouraged to talk with friends and family members about the risks.
With early darkness, and the busy holiday shopping and travel season already upon us, we all face increased risks.
Alabama Traffic Crashes & Fatigue
-Drivers who realize they are sleepy are at extreme risk. Pull over. You are already at the point where you may fall asleep without even realizing it. Drifting, tailgating, swerving or hitting rumble strips are all warning signs.
-Get a good night’s sleep before traveling. Make it a priority, even if it means delaying your departure by several hours.
-Try not to travel alone. Using the buddy system can drastically reduce your risks.
-Take a break every 2 hours.
-Don’t allow yourself to get into a rush. That’s when accidents happen.
-Never drink and drive and be aware of the possible side effects of medication. Even some over-the-counter medication may result in sleepiness and increase your risk of being involved in a serious or fatal crash.
-Understand your risks of an accident are already higher at night. Speeding, distracted driving or other poor driving habits only serve to increase those risks.
Birmingham Trucking Accident Attorneys Look at Top Causes of Tractor-Trailer Crashes, Published by Cross & Smith LLC, Nov. 8, 2012.
Sleep Apnea a Frequent Risk Factor for Alabama Trucking Accidents,By Cross & Smith, Sept. 7, 2012.