Is Drowsy Driving Taken Seriously Enough?

Carly Woodfield, Staff Writer

Drowsy driving is something that is commonly overlooked and not taken seriously enough. Drowsy driving has many risks that can be prevented if people are more aware of the toll lack of sleep can take on a person. Drowsy driving can result in injury or death to oneself and others. Since driving is something that can put many people at risk, it needs to be taken into serious consideration by drivers that they are driving responsibly and to be considerate of the lives at risk when at the wheel. 

It is common knowledge for drivers that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can impair one’s ability to drive safely. Due to this, driving under the influence is against the law to help prevent more people from deaths caused by these impaired drivers. This law has encouraged drivers to be better about having a designated driver, getting an Uber, or finding a place to rest until sober. Therefore, it would be thought that something that is almost equally dangerous to impaired driving would be talked about more, but this is not the case. According to the CDC, “Studies have shown that going too long without sleep can impair your ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol.” To further put that into perspective and the risk drowsy driving really is, the CDC says, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that between 2005 and 2009 drowsy driving was responsible for an annual average of: 83,000 crashes, 37,000 injury crashes, and 886 fatal crashes (846 fatalities in 2014).” It is apparent that drowsy driving is a huge deal that is impacting many lives, and if it is not addressed and emphasized to society more, it will keep affecting lives. 

As a result of drowsy driving not being seen as a threat due to lack of knowledge of the harms, it is occuring daily by drivers who have not had enough sleep. As reported by Sleep Foundation, “At least 50% of American adults admit to having driven while drowsy. A staggering 20% of people have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year, and one in 25 drivers reports having fallen asleep at the wheel in the last month.” It is alarming to know that people are this exhausted and are not even awake at points of a drive. This should be a wake up call for society to be getting better rest along with taking into account that lives are being taken on the roads by drowsy drivers. To accentuate the issue, Sleep Foundation also says, “The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that sleeping between six and seven hours a night doubled the risk of being involved in a crash, while getting less than five hours of sleep doubled it again.” With that said, it is very important for drivers to be responsible for getting enough sleep in order to be safer on the roads for their sake and others as well. There are many ways to prevent being a drowsy driver, such as, taking a nap before driving if feeling fatigued, having an energy drink, and making it a priority to get the necessary hours of sleep to function properly. 

Furthermore, as drowsy driving concerns have risen, there has been action taken by law. WedMD says, “The New Jersey legislature recently passed the nation’s first law (Maggie’s Law) that specifically named driving while drowsy a criminal offense. Many other states may soon follow suit, including New York.” Moreover, WedMD says, “Maggie’s Law states that a sleep-deprived driver qualifies as a reckless driver who can be convicted of vehicular homicide. It’s named in honor of a 20-year-old college student, Maggie McDonnell, who was killed when a driver — who admitted he hadn’t slept for 30 hours and had been using drugs — crossed three lanes of traffic and struck her car head-on in 1997.” It is hopeful that Maggie’s Law will have a positive impact on people’s decisions on drowsy driving. 

Overall, it is known that not everybody is aware of the risks that drowsy driving can have, also people may not care enough to be responsible drivers and to be fully rested to be a safe and alert driver. Yet it is still very important to raise awareness of the importance that sleep plays especially when driving. Drowsy driving is an issue that society needs to address more and take seriously to lower the numbers of crashes and fatalities from tired, irresponsible drivers.