Don’t Drive Drowsy!
Last week, I was driving my truck to work and experienced drowsiness while driving (from a late night project). As I approached the stoplight ahead, I found it hard to stay alert while driving and blinked my tired eyes for a second and found the orange Honda in front of me had dramatically slowed down. I simply reacted to the narrowing gap by slamming my brakes and my truck slid and hit the Honda before stopping. The Honda continued forward and hit the Subaru in front of it. Fortunately it was minor no one was injured; bumpers will have to be replaced on all three vehicles and my insurance premiums will increase next month. I was issued a citation for causing the accident.
Although sleep medicine is a common cause for fatigued driving, my causes for sleepiness resulted from my ignorance of proper sleep habits. Drowsy driving stories like mine are common because people underestimate the dangers of driving while fatigued. Wikipedia offers the following drowsy driving definition: “Sleep-deprived driving is the operation of a motor vehicle while being cognitively impaired by a lack of sleep.”
Drowsy Driving Facts according to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2002 poll:
- Adults between 18-29 are much more likely to drive while drowsy compared to other age groups.
- Men are more likely than women to drive while drowsy and are almost twice as likely as women to fall asleep while driving.
- Adults with children in the household are more likely to drive drowsy than those without children.
- Shift workers are more likely than those who work a regular daytime schedule to drive to or from work drowsy at least a few days a month.
- Sleep deprivation increases the risk of a sleep-related crash; the less people sleep, the greater the risk.
- A study by researchers in Australia showed that being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours; .08 is considered legally drunk.
Some symptoms of feeling drowsy include excessive or long blinking, difficulty focusing, slowed or delayed reactions, limited awareness of the surrounding environment, and/or repeated mental rationalizing of the tiredness with thoughts like: “I’m not that tired,” or “If I can just make it to…”
How to avoid drowsy driving? Just follow these simple drowsy driving tips: 1. Recognize when you are drowsy while driving. 2. Realize that you have a sleep problem and the dangers of distracted driving. 3. In the interest of driving safety, please pull over and nap or call someone for help. You might seek help later from a sleep center or simply change bad habits. Like texting while driving, distracted driving laws penalize people driving drowsy. You will pay the price for allowing personal driver fatigue. Maybe it will be a close call or minor accident like my experience. Or maybe you will crash and die, or worse, cause the deaths of other people. Be safe and don’t do it!
For more information or drowsy driving articles, please visit: drowsydriving.org/ and nhtsa.gov/