Want to spot a drowsy driver before he or she hits you? It's hard. Sometimes impossible. But there are specific characteristics you can watch out for.
Drowsy driving is more of a risk than a lot of people realize. It can slow your reaction times, just like drunk driving. It can make it hard to concentrate, just like distracted driving. And yet people who would never drink and drive, or text and drive, will often drive when they're tired.
Gut it out
They feel like they can just tough it out. It doesn't feel like a good excuse. No one calls their boss and says they can't come in because they're too tired to drive to work safely.
It can and does lead to accidents every year. Below are a few common characteristics.
Men, especially young men, drive when they're tired more often than women. Some researchers link this to lifestyle choices. For instance, they note that men may be more prone to working late, staying up late, and trying to power through on little sleep. They're also more likely to do things that make drowsy driving worse, like drinking.
Drivers who are alone
One study presented the following stunning statistic: In a full 82 percent of accidents caused by a drowsy driver, that person was alone. People may be more likely to take the risk when no one else tells them it's not safe. Additionally, passengers may be able to talk to a driver and keep him or her awake, while a lone driver has nothing but the radio.
Mid-afternoon and late night drivers
You body's clock will naturally cause you to feel tired. Some researchers note that it doesn't matter if you got enough sleep; this cycle persists. It happens between 1 and 3 in the afternoon and again after midnight. These are high-risk times even for those who think they're fine.
Drivers with rotating shifts
A sleep schedule is very important. When work shifts rotate, drivers get thrown off. Sometimes they sleep at night. Sometimes they sleep during the day. The body gets confused by the changes and it can be hard -- perhaps impossible -- to get enough sleep. Trying to force it or taking sleep aids doesn't mean you'll feel rested.
No skid marks
As far as characteristics from the crash site itself are concerned, the biggest thing investigators look for is a lack of signs that the driver even hit the brakes. If a car rear-ends another vehicle without slowing or swerving, there's a good chance the driver fell asleep. However, the same signs may point to drunk driving or distracted driving.
After the crash
Drowsy driving continues to pose a serious problem. Drivers must know the risks and their options after a crash.