Mention distracted driving and most people think about their cell phones. The broader definition is anything that causes driver inattention — and that might have more to do with how much sleep you got last night.
The month of April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Driving or operating heavy machinery is a complicated task involving visual, physical, emotional and cognitive attention. When you are fatigued, each of those faculties is impaired.
Dr. Reena Mehra of the Cleveland Clinic notes that the symptoms of drowsy driving include:
- Relaxation of the neck and back muscles: The characteristic drooping head while driving is a dangerous indicator of fatigue.
- Daydreams: Daydreams that leave a motorist unaware of the last few miles driven are a strong sign it is time to pull over.
- Restlessness: Blinking, yawning, and rubbing the face and eyes are all signs of fatigue.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports drowsy driving is a contributing factor in more than 100,000 collisions, 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths each year. Given the difficulty in gathering evidence of fatigue, the agency notes drowsy driving is underreported.
Any form of transport operated by a fatigued driver is an accident waiting to occur. In December 2013, a speeding commuter train derailed in New York, killing four people. The engineer stated he was “zoned out” and unaware the train was travelling three times the recommended speed as it approached a curve.
Lack of sleep afflicts drivers day or night. Motorists or truck drivers with undiagnosed sleep apnea experience daytime drowsiness that affects their decision-making ability and slows reaction time in an emergency.
When you do not have the energy or attention to drive, do not get behind the wheel. If you are injured in Cleveland by a distracted or impaired driver, seek experienced legal advice.