Sleep is essential for our brains and bodies to function. Getting enough of it is so critical that depriving people of sleep has been used as a torture technique for centuries.
Why then do so many drivers think they are OK to drive when they have not had enough sleep? A 2013 report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated fatigue played a role in over 300,000 crashes. Presumably, most of the drivers involved knew they were tired yet still thought they could drive.
One reason might be the lack of stigma attached to fatigued driving. Unlike driving while drunk or while using your phone, you are unlikely to have someone tut at you or tell you how irresponsible you are if you get behind the wheel and let out a yawn. People are more likely to feel sorry for you and tell you to take care than tell you off.
Most drivers are tired at some point
Being tired is not always a choice or someone’s fault. What parent of a teething baby would refuse the chance to sleep if their baby settled? What person lying awake worrying about their debts would turn down the opportunity to switch off and sleep?
Yet, getting behind the wheel when tired is a choice. You might not be able to ring up and tell your boss you are not coming in because you are too exhausted to drive. You can, however, ask someone else for a lift, take the bus or cycle.
If a fatigued driver crashes into you, you may feel empathetic when you hear why they are so tired. That does not excuse that they took the wheel when they were not in a fit state to do so.