Road doze: Do not drive when tired

You put in a solid 10 hours at work. It's not for the overtime pay, though you don't mind it. You just have so much to do. You got up early to work out and then stayed late at the office, so now you're driving home in the dark.

As you go, you feel your eyes getting heavy. You try turning on the radio, but the music just makes it worse. You keep looking at the GPS, watching the countdown until you get to your house. It seems so far.

Suddenly you jerk your head up. There's a rush of adrenaline as you realize you fell asleep behind the wheel. You're driving halfway in the wrong lane, and a car coming toward you is slamming on the horn. You swerve back into your lane, knowing just how lucky you were.

A common problem

If that sounds familiar, you're not alone. This happens to a lot of drivers. Some of them try rolling down the window, talking to a friend, blasting the music or drinking a cup of coffee. Some of it helps and some of it doesn't. But these drivers are clearly exhausted.

Most of them, however, don't think they're unsafe. They're just tired. They keep driving, trying to get home, unable to think of themselves as a public risk.

However, that's exactly what they are. Some experts claim that fatigued drivers are as dangerous as drunk drivers, and that paints a bleak picture. A drunk driver has:

  • Slower reaction times
  • Limited motor skills
  • A tendency to make simple mistakes
  • Less control over the vehicle
  • A chance of passing out at the wheel

All of that is also true with an over-tired driver. The comparison really hits home. Many people would never get drunk at the bar and drive home, but they will get exhausted at the office and do so. Is it really any better?

Understanding your options

As far as safety is concerned, you don't have many options. You certainly can choose not to drive when you're tired. That's a great step toward preventing an accident and keeping others safe. Plan your day out so that you either drive when you feel alert or get a ride when you don't.

At the end of the day, though, your safety hinges on the choices that other people make. If they continue to drive when they're too fatigued, they'll continue to make mistakes and cause accidents. They're no better than intoxicated drivers or those under the influence of drugs.

When one of them hits you and you wind up in the hospital, your only real recourse is to look into your legal options. You may deserve compensation to cover your costs.