Overtired driving – causes, risks and effects

Microsleep at the wheel – a well-known and particularly dangerous topic, as shown by its presence in the media. Whether it’s the serious bus accident in leipzig in 2019 [1] or the countless car accidents every year – the cause is often overtired or drowsy drivers, sometimes in conjunction with undiagnosed sleep apnea. Overall, more than one-third of Germans suffer from sleep disorders [2] and 26% of German drivers admit to having even fallen asleep while driving [3]. That’s why researchers are calling for the risks of fatigued driving to be clearly stated and awareness of them to be raised around the world.

Countless accidents due to second sleeping

The media’s interest in overtired driving was reawakened when a serious bus accident occurred in leipzig [4] in 2019. even in the countless car accidents every year, the cause is often overtired or drowsy drivers, sometimes in combination with undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Overtired driving - causes, risks and effects

The madeira bus crash four years ago and the fatal train derailment in new york in 2013 were also linked to sleep problems. the incident in new york in particular was analyzed in terms of sleep medicine at the time and produced some astonishing results: according to the journal news, train driver william rockefeller had undiagnosed sleep apnea during the accident in new york. a sleep test after the accident showed that his sleep was disturbed up to 65 times per hour. This is more than double the minimum threshold for severe sleep apnea set by the american academy of sleep medicine. [5]

Sleep disorders are common

in germany, over a third of germans suffer from sleep disorders [6] and 26% of german drivers admit to having fallen asleep while driving [7]. One in five accidents is fatigue-related and the cause of one in four accidental deaths on highways is second-sleep [8]. And this despite the fact that driving under sleep deprivation is forbidden by law in germany. the person causing an accident – caused by second sleep – can be made liable to prosecution and, according to ยง 315c stgb, a fine or imprisonment of up to five years can follow. And even the insurance does not necessarily cover such an accident, since driving while overtired is classified as grossly negligent behavior. [9]

Drowsy driving: an international problem

In the other countries of the world, too, the risks of tired driving are recognized by the relevant authorities. In florida, for example, there is a man serving a 15-year prison sentence for so-called ‘vehicular homicide’. He had been awake for 30 hours when he crashed his company truck into a group of cars waiting at a traffic light, killing three people. [10] in japan, a 2012 bus crash that killed seven people was even linked to undiagnosed sleep apnea and severe sleep deprivation. [11] in china, as much as 40 percent of the population suffers from sleep disorders, which is significantly higher than the world average. [12]

Overtired driving - causes, risks and effects

Tips to avoid second sleep

To avoid the risk of an accident, all drivers should rest before boarding and take a break when they feel tired. Have the courage and common sense to stop driving and take a nap if you feel sleepy. [13]

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