Everyone knows the dangers of drunk driving, and most people do the right thing by hiring a cab or having a designated driver if they've been drinking. However, did you know that drowsy driving is just as dangerous? The National Sleep Foundation has even dedicated a week in November as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week to raise awareness of this harmful behavior.

The statistics

The NSF reveals that those who are most likely to drive drowsy are males and between the ages of 18 and 29, though females don't trail too far behind. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration added to the list those who drive commercially, work nights or long shifts, take drowsy medications or have untreated sleep disorders. However, you don't need to fall into any of these categories to be a drowsy driver. Anyone who is sleep deprived is at risk of falling asleep at the wheel. The NHTSA estimated that in 2013 at least 72,000 vehicular crashes were the result of drowsy driving, leading to 44,000 injuries and 800 fatalities.

The dangers

Even if you don't fall asleep, handling a vehicle while fatigued can affect your driving in other ways. You will be more likely to do the following while driving:

  • Zone out and not pay attention to the road
  • React slowly to dangerous situations
  • Drift into other lanes
  • Miss your exit
These can also lead to accidents. There is the possibility you could face lawsuits and jail time as well if you get into an accident.

The prevention

The good news is that, just like with drunk driving, drowsy driving is easy to prevent. The most important prevention step is getting enough sleep. This may not always be an available option, but there are other things you can do. If you're taking a road trip, break it up so that you can rest overnight or make a rest stop every two hours to reenergize or nap. Drive during your normal awake time unless you've been awake for 24 ho urs or more. Drink caffeine if needed, but don't substitute it for sleep. Too much caffeine will also make it harder for you to sleep later.

With a busy, stressful life, it's easy to not get enough sleep and just charge through your day with whatever energy you have. Don't let this tactic seep into your driving habits. If you wouldn't drive drunk, then don't drive drowsy either. If you are the victim of an accident involving a drowsy driver, contact an attorney who can help you claim rewards.