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Can sleep inertia lead to a deadly truck collision?

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2022 | Truck Accidents

Whether it is a crowded city street or a fast-moving highway, Georgia drivers often share the roads with enormous trucks. From 18-wheelers and delivery vans to construction vehicles and other company trucks, these vehicles can be intimidating to the drivers of smaller passenger cars. Unfortunately, numerous factors contribute to road hazards and a dangerous environment.

While any motor vehicle collision can result from factors such as equipment failure, distracted drivers, impaired drivers or inexperienced drivers, one element seems to impact truck drivers on a regular basis – fatigue.

The difference between sleep inertia and drowsy driving

In what many might consider a distinction without a difference, both concepts center on drivers who are not alert, attentive and ready for the safe navigation of Georgia roadways. Drowsy driving or fatigued driving can refer to anyone who gets behind the wheel while not fully awake. This can be the result of an early morning drive or a late-night commute after a long day at work.

Sleep inertia, on the other hand, is a condition that afflicts people after they’ve just woken up. Many sleep researchers classify this as a biological protection method whereby the brain seeks to guard against unintended waking. When a person wakes up in the middle of the night for a drink of water, for example, the brain maintains a level of dulled perceptions and grogginess to allow an individual to fall back asleep. Unfortunately, those who have woken up after a night’s rest might still struggle with sleep inertia. Waking up and immediately getting behind the wheel can be a deadly combination.

A broad range of symptoms

Those struggling with sleep inertia can experience symptoms for 15 to 60 minutes after waking up. In extreme examples, the effects might last for more than an hour. Symptoms can include grogginess, blurred perceptions, cognitive impairment, impaired vision, disorientation and impaired spatial memory. For an individual navigating an 18-wheeler through heavy morning traffic, these symptoms can be deadly.

Even though they must follow mandated rest periods, truckers could still experience sleep inertia after a fitful sleep, insomnia or while under the lasting influence of sleep aids. Further, if the driver must wake up and immediately begin driving without having a chance to truly become alert and attentive, the resultant grogginess could become dangerous.