Driving drowsy is the most frequent problem among people who get behind the wheel when they shouldn't, according to a new CarInsurance.com survey.
CarInsurance.com asked 2,000 drivers about the times they drove when they shouldn't have and found that many people hit the road whether or not they feel well and regardless of broken car equipment.
People who have driven when they shouldn't did so when:
- They were sleepy: 68%
- They had a headache: 53%
- They were sick enough to be in bed but got up to drive: 35%
- They were less drunk than a friend: 23%
- They weren't wearing needed glasses or contact lenses: 16%
- They were taking narcotic pain medicine: 15%
- They had an arm in a cast: 8%
Loss of good driver discount
Sixty percent of respondents in CarInsurance.com's survey think driving while sleepy should be illegal, and in two states it is. In New Jersey, a driver who has been without sleep for 24 hours is considered to be driving recklessly, in the same class as an intoxicated driver. In Arkansas, you can be charged with negligent homicide if you kill someone due to "fatigued driving." Other states have pending laws about drowsy driving or are studying it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
One in eight fatal crashes involves a drowsy driver, making driving while exhausted one of the leading contributors to car wrecks, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration echoes these findings -- drowsy driving is implicated in 100,000 car crashes per year, which leave 71,000 people injured and 1,500 dead.
Several states, including Texas and Florida, hold an annual "Drowsy Driving Prevention Week" to raise awareness about the issue and help reduce accidents, but David Harkey, director of The University of North Carolina Highway Research Center, says more can be done.
"Education alone is not the solution. We have seen too many safety issues where such a solution does not work. Campaigns that include both a public education component combined with high-visibility enforcement have been shown to produce results, for example 'Click It or Ticket,'" says Harkey.
If you do hit the road when you aren't in top physical shape, you're likely increasing your chance of causing an accident. A at-fault car crash can increase insurance rates, and would likely prevent you from qualifying for a good driver discount, which is usually 15 percent or more.
When you should be driving to the repair shop
In some cases, people hit the road lacking properly working car equipment. Here's how equipment failures rank among those who have driven when they shouldn't:
1. "Check engine" light on: 61%
2. Couldn't see through snow or ice on the windshield: 32%
3. Windshield wipers not working: 26%
4. Speedometer broken: 21%
5. Horn didn't work: 19%
6. Headlights not working: 18%
7. Flat tire: 17%
8. A door had to be held closed: 10%
9. Without a required child seat for your child: 7%
10. Car was filled with exhaust fumes: 6%
11. There was no driver seat or the seat was broken: 5%
Survey results show people don't always resist the temptation of revving up the engine even when others try to change their mind. In the preceding 12 months, 46 percent of drivers drove once or twice when they shouldn't have; 11 percent did so three to 10 times and 3 percent did so in more than 10 instances.
While 79 percent of people did not drive when others persuaded them to hand over the keys, 21 percent ignored the advice of others. Here's why those who drove against others' advice did so:
- I had to go to work: 21%
- I had to go home: 13%
- I had to go to the doctor: 4%
- I had to pick up my kids: 3%
Accidents mean higher car insurance rates
Driving when you – or your car – aren’t in top shape could result in an accident. If you hit another car, your liability coverage would kick in to pay for damage to the other vehicle, up to your policy limits, but you would need collision coverage to file a claim to pay for your car’s damage. Likewise, if you hit a guard rail or other object, you would need collision coverage to file a claim. Lucky for you, your auto coverage will pay even if your accident is due to broken equipment or illness. “Car insurance covers bad choices," says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for Insure.com.
“If you crash due to dozing off behind the wheel or because your windshield wipers weren’t working, your accident will be covered. Just because the accident will be covered doesn’t mean you won’t feel some pain from your insurer, though -- just wait until your next renewal when your rates are bumped up,” cautions Gusner.