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When we think of impaired or distracted driving, we often think about people who drive while drinking, texting or under the influence of drugs. However, driving while feeling drowsy is just as dangerous. And unlike other driving impairments, feeling drowsy behind the wheel is something that can happen to anyone. According to the American Sleep Foundation, about 20% of drivers have admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. In the US, about 800 people died from a drowsy-driving related accidents in 2017 and about 91000 accidents were caused. So not only is drowsy driving common, but it can be fatal.

Drowsiness and fatigue occurs when our body hasn’t been given enough rest. We do our best to get through our daily routines even if we are sleep deprived, but the effects of sleep deprivation will eventually begin to affect our cognitive functions. To be a safe driver, a person needs to be visually focused, have manual control, and normal cognitive function. Anything that impairs these elements are dangerous distractions. A cognitive distraction causes the driver to lose the ability to focus. Drowsy driving being a cognitive distraction falls under the same category as someone who drinks or is under the influence of drugs while driving. Even if the person doesn’t actually fall asleep at the wheel, being drowsy is enough for them to lose their ability to drive safely.

How to Prevent Drowsy Driving

To prevent drowsy driving, there are a few circumstances to be aware of and to prepare for. First, if you are driving very late at night, you are at a higher risk of getting drowsy. Most drowsy driving accidents occur between midnight and 6 a.m. Even if you’ve had an extra cup of coffee, our body has a circadian rhythm (an internal clock) that tells us when it’s time to sleep. Secondly, often times these kinds of accidents occur when the driver is alone. Finally, these accidents frequently occur on long rural roads and highways.

Having said all of that, here are the best things to do to prevent these kinds of accidents:

  1. Get enough sleep. This goes without saying, but this is main reason why these types of accidents happen. Between 7 and 8 hours of sleep is a healthy amount for adults. Especially if you know you are going on a long drive, make sure you are well rested.
  2. If you find you feel sleep-deprived on a regular basis, go see a doctor. Many people have sleeping disorders (such as sleep apnea) that are untreated.
  3. Avoid drinking alcohol. Even if you are not intoxicated, alcohol is a depressant, and can make you sleepy.
  4. Try not to drive alone for long distances. A passenger can keep you company, and therefore help you remain alert. They can also notice if you are beginning to show signs of drowsiness and can take turns driving.
  5. Try to avoid driving long distances overnight. If a road trip cannot be made in a day, consider finding a place to rest overnight.
  6. Check your prescriptions and medications to see if they can cause drowsiness. Do not drive when taking such medications.
  7. Drink coffee or energy drinks for short term alertness. This will not permanently stop the effects of serious sleep deprivation, but it can help mild tiredness.
  8. Especially if you are driving alone during late night hours, be alert to signs of drowsiness. Many highways have rumble strips to alert drivers when they are swerving over lanes.

If you start to get sleepy while you’re driving, drink one to two cups of coffee and pull over for a short 20-minute nap in a safe place, such as a lighted, designated rest stop. This has been shown to increase alertness in scientific studies, but only for short time periods. Opening the windows or playing loud music is not very effective. Resting is the only way to truly combat drowsiness.

About the Author

Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.

His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.

The holidays have become quite the hustle on Long Island. Shopping outlet, plaza and mall parking lots become extremely dangerous for pedestrians this time of year. Around 500 deaths occur each year in parking lots and parking garages, as well as several other injuries. Drivers are rushing from store to store trying to get all their holiday shopping done. They’re making quick maneuvers to find parking spots while pedestrians are walking in each direction. A recent poll conducted by the National Safety Council found that 66% of drivers admit that they are distracted while driving through parking lots. And it’s safe to assume that drivers are even more distracted during the holiday rush. Drivers aren’t the only ones distracted, though – pedestrians are many times distracted while walking through parking lots, usually by their phones. All the rush and distraction become a recipe for disaster.

From the respondents of the poll, 63% set their GPS, 50% send or receive emails, 52% use social media, 49% take photos or watch videos, 43% use their smartphones, 43% search the internet, and 42% video chat all while driving through parking lots. The statistics are shocking. There are, on average, more than 50,000 crashes each year in parking lots, resulting in 500 or more deaths and over 60,000 injuries.

We urge everyone to be more vigilant in parking lots. Don’t let yourself become distracted, whether you’re walking through a parking lot or driving. The repercussions of driving or walking through a busy parking lot while distracted can be devastating. Don’t let the rush get to you either. Always keep attentive and take it slow.

And of course, we wish you the happiest of holidays this year!

Kids can teach you a lot about new advancements in technology, but you’ll always have the fundamentals of life to teach them. And what can be more fundamental than teaching your child the bases of safety…especially on the road? Long Island roads can be extremely dangerous.

State laws are set in place to protect drivers and pedestrians, and they change often. Laws against texting while driving are getting more and more strict – and for good reason. Did you know that texting and driving is 6 times more likely to cause a car accident than being intoxicated behind the wheel?

Parents need to recognize all factors that can cause distracted driving so they can inform their kids on how to always be safe and attentive on the road. And one distraction, as helpful and innocent as it may seem, is the use of cellphone navigation.

The State of New York’s stance against driving while using a phone does in fact state that using your phone for navigation while driving is considered Distracted Driving while in-hand.

When new drivers are both learning how to drive and to navigate in a certain area, they’re likely anxious. If they’re driving slow because they’re lost, it’s likely that a local driver behind them may become aggravated and honk at them, adding to that anxiety. When you’re anxious, you’re more likely to make a bad decision. Bad decisions on the road can easily lead to catastrophe.

We urge you to recognize cellphone navigation as a potential cause for distracted driving, especially when in-hand. Here are some ways to instill good driving/navigational habits in your child:

Your child depends on you to help them learn good driving habits. Set a stellar example.