Drowsy DrivingRidesharing service Uber has been in the news a lot lately, and most of the publicity isn’t good. From lawsuits to accidents involving self-driving cars, Uber has had growing pains. But Uber recently announced a policy that shows a commitment to the safety of its passengers.

Restriction on Consecutive Driving Hours

Uber recently put in place restrictions on how many consecutive hours its drivers can work (drive) before they can accept additional passengers. Drivers who have worked for 12 hours must be “offline” from the service for six hours before they can take any driving jobs again.

Obviously Uber can’t control what drivers do during those six hours—they can’t be forced to rest—but it’s at least a step in the right direction.

This is big news for South Carolina, where Uber recently announced that it will accept riders from all corners of the state, no matter how remote.

Drowsy Driving: THE DANGERS

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adults have driven a car while being drowsy. We are not programmed to think of drowsy driving as being as dangerous as driving drunk, but in fact, driving without enough sleep can cause a car’s driver to have the same impairments as alcohol consumption.

It is estimated that if you are awake for 18 hours, the effect on your reflexes, reaction times, and attentiveness are the same as if you had a .05 percent blood alcohol concentration level. That number doubles to a .10 percent BAC if you haven’t slept for 24 hours. Driving while drowsy is said to account for 16 percent of all fatal car crashes nationwide.

Although both are dangerous, drunk drivers may at least have the chance to swerve or try to avoid collisions. But for someone who nods off behind the wheel, there is complete unconsciousness. That means that drowsy drivers may be going at high speeds, without braking or swerving before accidents happen.

And while many people know how many drinks they can handle, or when they are too drunk to drive, we tend to be very bad at gauging when we’re too tired. Even if you get enough sleep, other causes of unrestful sleep, due to medications or sleep apnea, can make us drowsy during the day. That means that even being aware of the problem of drowsy driving may not be enough to stop people from doing it.

Microsleep Can Be Dangerous

In fact, our body can purposely put is into what is known as “microsleep.” These are brief periods when our brains “shut off,” keeping us from being aware of what is going on around us. The eyes may close for seconds at a time, but even if the eyes don’t close, a sleep-deprived person may fail to respond to stimuli, or may “zone out” for long stretches.

Microsleep is most common not just when we’re tired, but when we’re doing something monotonous, like driving (especially for long stretches). You may not even be aware that your brain is going into microsleep, making the problem even more dangerous.

Christopher Pracht
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Christopher Pracht is an experienced attorney at Pracht Injury Lawyers.
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