Working Overtime : Drowsy Driving a Serious Risk for Truckers and Other Maryland Motorists

Have you ever driven home from a long day at work or an evening engagement, yawning as the miles clicked by? Maybe you grabbed a cup of coffee to stay alert, or opened the car window to breathe some cold fresh air. Most Maryland drivers, if they’re being honest, would admit to occasionally driving tired…when they’d prefer to be at home in bed, rather than navigating Baltimore County, Md. roadways.

This week is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. The AAA Foundation released a report that sheds new light on the problem of drowsy driving and risk of car accidents.

While nearly all Americans consider drowsy driving to be a serious safety hazard for themselves and other motorists (96% in the AAA study) — one in three admits to driving drowsy recently. Those who admitted to driving fatigued weren’t just talking about feeling a little bit tired: They said they had trouble keeping their eyes open on the road. In fact, the organization’s research found that two out of every five drivers (41%) admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel, with one in ten revealing this had happened in the past year.

It’s tough enough navigating Maryland’s back roads, Baltimore city streets, and area bridges and highways without wondering if the driver in the next lane is awake.

The AAA and other driving safety advocates compare the symptoms of drowsy driving to those of drunk driving in terms of risk for serious and fatal auto accidents. For example, drowsy drivers experience problems with vision, judgment, and reaction time. They may miss their exits or become lost and confused.

The problem of driving drowsy is a concern for all U.S. drivers — particularly those who drive for work in jobs that require long hours on the road. This includes sales people, commuters who travel long distances to their office jobs, and some contractors. Commercial truckers are at particular risk, given their long hours spent hauling heavy cargo across the state of Maryland and the country.

Catastrophic truck accidents can and do happen when a tractor-trailer driver takes his or her attention off the road, even for a second. This is why the U.S. Dept. of Transportation regulates how many hours truckers may drive before they are required by law to take a break. The Hours-of-Service regulations put limits in place for when and how long commercial motor vehicle drivers may drive.

AAA hopes to raise public awareness about the hazards of drowsy driving for all motorists. Their study found that one of every six fatal automotive crashes and one in eight crashes causing serious injury involved a drowsy driver. As Hunt Valley, Md. accident injury attorneys, we’re well aware of the risks of driving in our state. Staying alert is the first rule of defensive driving.

AAA and the National Sleep Foundation recommend being aware of the warning signs that you’re just too tired to safely drive…and planning ahead so that you’re not getting behind the wheel when you should be getting under the covers. See links below for further discussion and suggestions.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

More States Follow Maryland Ban on Texting While Driving


AAA Study: 1 in 3 Drivers Admit to Recent Drowsy Driving Nov. 7, 2011
How to Avoid Drowsy Driving (PDF brochure)
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
Hours of Service Regulations

National Sleep Foundation

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