Often overlooked as a dangerous driving behavior, many people in North Carolina get behind the wheel when they are overly tired or fatigued. Known as drowsy driving, this hazardous combination puts not only the fatigued drivers at risk but also their passengers and the occupants of the other vehicles that they share the road with.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowsy driving may occur due to consuming alcohol, taking certain medications, working long shifts, suffering from an undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder, or from not getting enough rest. Although anyone who does not get adequate sleep is at risk for driving while drowsy, the risk may be increased for shift workers, commercial vehicle operators and others who work long hours or through the night.

As a result of drowsiness, drivers may experience impairments including delayed reaction times, reduced decision-making and decreased attentiveness. According to the National Security Council, the impairments resulting from fatigue and sleepiness are akin to those related to drinking alcohol. Being awake for more than 20 hours and getting behind the wheel is comparable to driving with a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration level.

Unlike other accident causes, which can be identified and measured, it can be difficult to know if a driver was fatigued when a crash occurred. This may be, at least in part, because drivers themselves may not even realize they are too tired to drive. Although official reports estimate 100,000 drowsy driving collisions occur annually in the U.S., one study estimates that 328,000 accidents each year involve drivers who are overly fatigued or tired.