Will we ever see a day when getting behind the wheel while fatigued is socially unacceptable, and where steep fines and even jail sentences might result? Most of us know the social disgrace of drinking and driving (especially if you’re caught), and millions of dollars spent each year on drinking and driving with enforcement, commercials and advertisements. When was the last time you saw a group raising funds to combat fatigued driving?
Yet the facts suggest that fatigued driving is as dangerous as getting behind the wheel after too much booze, and that the problem is growing. According to a study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, almost 17% of all fatal accidents could be caused by driver fatigue.
Not only that, 41% of the drivers that were surveyed admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at least once in their lives. Twenty-seven percent of the drivers admitted that in the past month, they had driven at least once while being so tired they had problems keeping their eyes open.
I can relate to this – having been a shift worker years ago, and working over a midnight shift after an afternoon doing some overtime and being honked at after stopping at a stop sign and falling asleep. Or long journeys when I just had to get home with my kids in the car – it seemed safer and better to try to get home rather than pull over on a cold winter’s night in the middle of nowhere on the highway.
Perhaps if this is about road safety (and it should be), and if the statistics are borne out, more people will become aware of the dangers of sleepy driving. Perhaps we’ll be seeing ads suggesting “Friends don’t let friends drive tired.”