Many conscientious drivers would not think of driving while drunk yet drive when extremely tired or sleepy. Driver fatigue and driving while under the influence of alcohol are both equally dangerous and have the same effects on your ability to drive. Either condition can have fatal consequences because both diminish your ability to perceive and respond to hazards on the road.
The Cause Of Driver Fatigue
Extreme fatigue can result from driving for too many hours. Driving continuously for ten or twelve hours on interstates is a highly monotonous experience. The lack of physical and mental stimulation for long periods of time can induce sleepiness even in broad daylight. Inadequate sleep the night before will further exacerbate the problem.
Drowsiness can also occur when driving at night during hours that you normally spend sleeping. All individuals have a natural sleep-wake cycle. Driving through the night when your body is programmed to sleep means you are working against your natural sleep cycle.
The Danger Of Microsleep
People often drink lots of coffee, listen to loud music, and roll down the windows in order to force themselves to stay awake when they are in a sleep deprived state. This cannot be kept up for long periods of time because of a phenomenon called microsleep.
When microsleep occurs, you can be literally asleep with your eyes open for brief periods of time between 2 and 30 seconds. Traveling between 2 and 30 seconds at 60 mph means you have gone between 176 feet to one half mile while asleep. There is also no awareness of the onset of microsleep. You will not necessarily be yawning or dropping your head. You could simply be looking straight ahead and blank out.
The entire brain does not go to sleep when microsleep occurs. Instead, parts of the brain briefly “go offline” while the rest of the brain stays awake. Even before going into the brief period of sleep, sleep-like activity is already occurring in the brain that impairs brain function. Studies have been done that confirm this phenomenon.
If you find yourself falling asleep on the road, the only remedy is pulling over at a rest stop or other location where you can safely park your car and get some sleep. Keep the environment inside your car stimulating in order to stay awake long enough so that you can reach a rest stop. This means turning down the temperature of the car, rolling down the windows, turning up the radio, and frequently changing the stations. Eating food such as candy can also help.
Contact us at Silverthorne Attorneys if you have been in a Fontana car accident with a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. Accidents caused by fatigued drivers can be very severe and we can help you get the compensation you will need to recover.