Most of us have bad habits when it comes to sleep. Working long shifts on a day to day basis and sacrificing hours is not unheard of, and this all adds up. Our body starts feeling the stress, the tiredness, and the constant fatigue slowly piling up. We like to believe that this is a minor issue that can be resolved by sleeping pills, but that is not the case.
Just like getting behind the wheel of a car after driving, bad sleeping habits and drowsiness can cause harmful and sometimes deadly accidents. The Exxon-Valdez oil spill, for example, was largely blamed on operator fatigue.
Drowsy driving, like any other dangerous activity performed while sleep-deprived, can be lethal. In fact, statistical data suggests that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. The risks are obvious and the results, in terms of damages, injuries and death can be just as permanent.
So how do bad sleeping habits affect driving? Let’s find out:
- It impedes judgment
Poor judgment and bad decision-making are some of the main problems that are caused by not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation blurs moral judgment, makes decision making difficult and time consuming, often resulting in disastrous outcomes. According to multiple studies, when sleep-deprived, people do not know how to deal with even the simplest dilemmas, make poor decisions and waver in their judgments. Minor dilemmas and situations, which are otherwise solved instantly, take longer to be assessed and understood. This slows our ability to respond to a sudden change on the road (being cut off for example). Also, behavioral changes can occur, which are often a direct result of having a clouded judgment.
- It affects coordination
Sleep deprivation has a disastrous effect on fine motor coordination, as well as balance and decision-making. Driving a vehicle requires the coordination of both horizontal and vertical eye movements, as well as steering and pedal movement. Recent research has shown that even after a night of sleep deprivation, the ability to coordinate eye movement and steering can fall drastically. In a study performed by Manchester Metropolitan University, the participants were asked to drive on a winding road in a simulator, in two separate scenarios: one when fully rested, and one after being kept awake for 36 hours. The results showed that sleep deprivation affects the ability to coordinate movements, reactions and can cause serious accidents.
- It increases reaction times
Quick reaction times are decisive, especially when driving at 80 miles per hour on the highway. Having good reflexes can mean the difference between life and death. Sleep deprivation affects your reflexes, slowing down the reaction times to various stimuli. Muscle reaction and neurotransmitters become sluggish, and you will feel lethargic. Recent research done at the University of Texas at Austin has shown that sleep-deprived individuals have problems making split-second decisions. Specifically, the sleep-deprived participants had reaction times slowed by almost 12 percent when compared to participants who had a full night’s sleep.
- It impairs the ability to retain and use information
When driving, you are constantly bombarded with bits of information which your brain must detect, organize and store for “further use”. Billboards, advertisements, other vehicles, road signs and the landscape are filled with tiny bits of information that move rapidly in front of your eyes. If you are sleep deprived, your ability to comprehend this information declines. This could easily lead to an accident because you failed to heed that “detour” sign.
Sleep-deprived drivers are a greater hazard on our roadways than drunk drivers. While the demands of life are understandable, there is no excuse for endangering the life of another. If you’ve been injured in an accident due to a careless driver, I recommend contacting a personal injury attorney such as David R. Heil, PA, or any other lawyer that services your area.
Flaviu Mircea is a freelance writer who specializes on safety topics. He writes in an effort to help his audience live safer and more fulfilling lives. If you wish to learn more you can visit his profile on Google+.
How Bad Sleeping Habits can Cause a Car Accident
August 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment