Daylight Savings Time is here once again, forcing everyone to adjust their sleep schedules and readjust to longer days. Unfortunately, with it comes a predictable increase in motor vehicle accidents due to sleep-deprived drivers. But what is it about sleep-deprived people that makes them so dangerous on the road?
What Does it Mean to Drive While Sleep-Deprived?
As a general rule, most grown adults need a minimum of six to eight hours of restful sleep to be able to function normally. When they get less sleep than this, or when their sleep is not restful (due to medical conditions such as sleep apnea), they are considered to be sleep-deprived. People who drive while in this state suffer a number of negative effects, all of which contribute to the likelihood of a motor vehicle accident occurring.
Why Do People Drive While Sleep-Deprived?
Typically, people drive when they have not had enough sleep because they do not have any other choice. They need to get to work, to visit family, or to get to necessary appointments, and very few people accept being too tired to drive to be an acceptable excuse. Truck drivers, in particular, are notorious for driving with insufficient sleep to make their delivery deadlines, making them some of the most likely drivers to suffer from sleep deprivation.
What Are the Effects of Driving While Sleep-Deprived?
It is extremely dangerous to drive while sleep-deprived. People who have not had enough sleep have significantly lower reaction times compared to well-rested drivers, making it harder for them to stop or maneuver to avoid accidents. They are also more easily distracted and more irritable, making it more likely they will engage in risky driving behaviors. In extreme circumstances, sleep-deprived drivers will fall asleep at the wheel, completely losing control of their vehicle and getting into an accident as a result.
What Should You Do If You Are Driving While Sleep-Deprived?
If you have not gotten enough sleep but find yourself driving anyway, there are a few things you can do to prevent accidents. First, while it is only a temporary measure, caffeine can help keep you alert for a certain amount of time, at least until you get where you need to go. Second, you should not be afraid to take a break somewhere, either pulling into a parking lot or stopping by the side of the road. A short nap can potentially do wonders to prevent an accident, especially on long trips.
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