During a summer road trip, you may risk becoming too drowsy to drive. You might also encounter a drowsy driving accident on the highway and be injured in a crash.

This summer, countless families across the country will be taking to the roads for vacations or day trips. Add this increased traffic to the numbers of commercial trucks already on the interstates, and summer can be a dangerous time for drivers in Florida and other states. Spending a long time behind the wheel during road trips can also be hazardous, taking into consideration the fact that long, monotonous drives often make a driver sleepy.

Drowsy driving is not an issue to take lightly. The Florida Department of Transportation reported that 21 people were killed and 2,393 were injured in collisions related to drowsy driving across the state in 2011.

Drowsy driving is estimated to cause more than 1,500 fatalities, 71,000 injuries and 100,000 accidents throughout the United States each year. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of drivers over age 18 admitted to driving drowsy within the past year – some even once a month – and more than a third of them actually nodded off while driving. About 4 percent said they were involved in a motor vehicle crash or narrowly avoided one because they had been driving fatigued.

Common drowsy driving factors and signs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that commercial truck drivers, people who work late shifts, drivers with untreated sleep disorders and those who regularly drive sleep-deprived are most at risk of causing a drowsy driving crash. People who use sedating medications or drink alcohol may also fall asleep while driving.

Nodding off behind the wheel can happen in an instant without the driver even realizing it is about to occur. However, there are numerous warning signs that can signal when it’s time to pull over. These include:

  • Feeling unusually impatient, stressed or irritable
  • Heavy eyelids, yawning frequently or difficulty keeping the head up
  • Missing an exit or not being able to remember driving the last few miles
  • Drifting from the lane or driving over the rumble strip on a highway

Many drowsy driving crashes occur on high-speed, straight rural highways, which are often taken during long road trips.

Precautions can’t always prevent a crash

There are numerous steps that drivers can take to avoid becoming sleepy enough behind the wheel to cause a crash. It may help to drive with someone who can keep the driver awake or switch driving periodically to allow the other person to rest. Instead of trying to rush to a destination, taking a break every couple of hours or 100 miles may give drivers a break to stretch their legs and feel more alert. Pulling over to take a nap can make a big difference. Of course, getting a full night’s sleep before starting a trip is imperative.

No matter how careful you are to avoid drowsiness behind the wheel, you can’t control the actions of other drivers. Any time you are on the freeway, you may be sharing the road with someone who should not be driving due to sleepiness. If you were injured in a crash caused by a drowsy driver, you may be eligible for the compensation of your medical expenses.

Keywords: drowsy, driving, accident, injury

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