Close Call: Arrive Alive!
Most of us have experience or know of someone who has experienced an accident on the roads. I have not had to experience such an event, but I have had family members and friends who have. One such event occurred early one night a few years ago. I got a call around 10:30 PM from my father informing me that my brother had fallen asleep at the wheel coming home from a party around 10:00 PM. He was getting off onto an exit ramp that went over an overpass with a slight curve over the freeway. He experienced a microsleep as he was getting off the freeway hitting the barrier on the overpass. Luckily the vehicle did not roll over and tumble down onto oncoming traffic. For him, it was too close to call and fortunately he arrived home alive.
My brother had claimed that he had fallen asleep at the wheel, but he had actually experienced a microsleep. These microsleeps imped quick reaction in avoiding high-speed collisions. My brother had experienced fatigue that day from sleep deprivation the night before and stress at work. He thought he could make it home and was overly confident in his driving abilities that night.
Accordingly to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving impairs driving performance as much as alcohol. A recent study by the American Automobile Association estimates that one out of every six traffic accidents and one out of eight crashes requiring hospitalization of car drivers and / or passengers is due to drowsy driving.
Most crashes caused by fatigue driving involve someone driving alone. A single driver does not have someone to talk too nor anyone to notice when the driver is getting sleepy. The driver does not try to avoid an accident. A sleepy driver does not react quickly enough to danger.
The three best ways to prevent drowsy driving require behavior changes. First is to avoid medications and alcohol. Second is to make sure you get enough sleep the night before. Getting up extra early in the morning to start a long drive is not a good strategy. Prevention is the best way to avoid drowsy driving. Lastly, pull off the road and get sleep when you are feeling tired. Do this even if you think your driving ability is not being affected. Take short power naps to rest your eyes. Many do not really know how much less alert they are. Best is to schedule breaks every two hours or every 100 miles according to the American Automobile Association.
Unfortunately for my brother, it was a short drive home from a party. Due to the short distance, he was overly confident in his abilities and it almost cost him his life. When it comes to drowsy driving or driving under the influence, one could argue they are one in the same. Getting behind the wheel without being 100% aware is putting your life, your passengers and other drivers in danger. Take the time and dedication in identifying the signs of drowsy driving can help us all achieve the goal of zero fatalities on our roads.
Statistics were taken from the National Sleep Foundation and American Automobile Association web sites.