The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is stressing drowsy driving prevention as we head into the fall travel season.
West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers understand there is a confluence of risk factors this time of year. Teen drivers and school children are out in force as the school year gets under way in earnest.
The agency opened September with Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, after Gov. Rick Scott signed a formal proclamation. The 33 million Americans who hit the road for Labor Day kicked off the end-of-year travel season, which includes the trio of year-end holidays and is typically the most dangerous time of the year on the roads.
Additionally, and even as motorcyclists are putting the bikes away up north, riders in South Florida are gearing up for the long winter riding season. Add to that mix the tourists and snowbirds, and everyone’s risk for an accident increases as the roads become more congested.
Drowsy driving is one risk factor you can do something about. And, as Daylight Savings Time ends Nov. 4, and the days grow shorter, there is some evidence that the risks for traffic accidents increase, particularly those involving drowsy drivers. When the days grow shorter and we begin the evening commute in the dark, pedestrians and other motorists are at increased risk of an accident.
“Being alert behind the wheel is critical to highway safety,” said DHSMV Executive Director Julie L. Jones. “Studies show the fatality rate is higher for crashes where a driver falls asleep.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 100,0000 police-reported accidents each year involve a distracted driver. At least 1,500 motorists are killed and more than 70,000 are injured by a distracted driver. Studies continue to show the impact of sleep-deprivation is similar to that of being drunk at the wheel. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly 90 percent of surveyed police officers report pulling over a suspected drunk driver only to determine that sleepiness was responsible for poor driving.
The peek time period for these accidents is between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. and one of the primary causes is a driver who fails to identify the signs of drowsiness or who attempts to push through sleepiness in an effort to reach a destination. Tactics such as drinking coffee, turning on the radio or opening your window are only marginally effective — stopping the vehicle for rest is the only solution.
You can also be proactive by getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, by not traveling when you would normally be sleeping and by planning breaks every few hours when making a long trip.
Signs of drowsy driving include:
-Tailgating or irregular speed.
-Getting lost or missing traffic signs.
-Inability to recall the last few miles.
-Difficulty keeping your eyes open.
Respecting the risks of driving drowsy may be the best way to avoid becoming a statistic. A AAA Foundation survey recently found that nearly half of all drivers admit to nodding off behind the wheel at some point in their driving career. More than 10 percent admit to having done so in the last month.
“It is important for everyone behind the wheel to understand the dangers of drowsy driving,” said FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad. “Making the decision to pull into a rest area when fatigued can save lives.”