Drive Safe: Drive Alert
It’s not every day you see a 10 foot tall, plastic cow while driving down the interstate. For my wife and I, it was definitely a first and a fun highlight on our 12 hour road trip to Seattle, Washington. Driving safe is a priority for us, so I asked my wife to get the camera and snag the picture so that I could pay attention to the road. From the time we first saw the cow, a few hundred yards off, to the time we got the first picture taken (through the back seat window), about 5-10 seconds had passed. As I look back to that experience, I am reminded of how much distance is covered in such a short amount of time. Whether we’re driving distracted or driving drowsy, a lot can happen in a short amount of time. It’s obviously clear that driving blindfolded is a really bad idea, which begs the question: why would texting and driving or driving fatigued ever cross our minds? Perhaps the biggest reason is the perception of danger.
Dangerous Driving Habits
Dangerous driving habits include the obvious and highly publicized dangers of DUI or driving under the influence of substances which can impair your ability to drive safely. Recent attention has also been given to the dangers of texting while driving, with many states passing legislature to ban texting and general cell phone use for all drivers. Both of these can, with relative ease, be attributed to distracted driving accidents, and both are generally volitional acts- almost nobody “accidentally” responds to a friend’s text or downs a few beers. While, it is more difficult to attribute drowsy driving accidents, the danger is still present and includes more than just falling asleep at the wheel. As reported by the CDC, drowsiness “makes drivers less attentive, slows reaction time, and affects a driver’s ability to make decisions.” Furthermore, the National Sleep Foundation stated that “being awake for 24 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .10, which is considered legally drunk and leaves you at risk for a crash.” However, as suggested earlier, it is the perception of danger that most likely influences our driving behaviors. We’re not necessarily in control of when our bodies succumb to fatigue, and that timing could prove fatal.
Drive Safe: Drive Alert
There are a lot of drowsy driving statistics: we get it- it’s bad. So what can we do? Perhaps one of the most important factors is awareness. Utah has dedicated the third full week of August as “Drowsy Driving Awareness Week” and many other states have taken initiatives to promote awareness of the dangers of driving drowsy. At-risk groups include: young drivers, shift workers (working the night shift), commercial drivers, and people with undiagnosed or untreated sleeping disorders (like sleep apnea). Having an awareness of the dangers and who is more at-risk can help to take certain precautions before hitting the road. For example, make sure to get enough sleep and, when possible, take a traveling companion with you! Also be sure to look for warning signs like excessive yawning, hitting a rumble strip, or missing an exit. A lot can happen in 5-10 seconds, so drive safe and drive alert.