Drowsy Driving - An Eye Opening Experience
Growing up I was always taught the dangers of falling asleep while driving. As a son of a doctor who has seen a lot of patients that were in driving accidents, including accidents of fatigued driving I was taught by my father how real these dangers are and the importance of driving safely.
One of my high school classmates, Lonnie Rasmussen, was killed in an accident in 2005, it is suspected that he fell asleep behind the wheel. He was a very nice guy, and is greatly missed by our class.
So, I should know as much as anyone not to be driving while tired right? Well, unfortunately I recently caught even myself sleepy while driving. The night before I had burned the midnight oil getting school work done, gone to work early the next morning knowing it was going to be a busy stressful day, and then that evening on my commute to class I caught myself yawning a lot, I couldn’t remember the last few miles I had driven, and was finding my eyelids getting heavy. When I was driving drowsy and that I could have easily fallen asleep it scared me, it became real to me, and I can now better understand why it happens to so many people. I immediately tried to remember the safe driving rules given to me when I was younger. I had planned to stop for food on my way to school, I just decided to make that stop sooner than planned to give myself an opportunity to stretch, and get some caffeine as well.
Since this incident I have researched more about fatigue driving and was very surprised at what I have learned.
Dr. Chris Hammond a neurologist specializing in sleep disorders has teamed up with Zero Fatalities to research the impact of losing a couple of hours of sleep can have on road safety. He found that anything less that six hours of sleep is going to effect your cognitive abilities, and that three nights of four hours of sleep or less would be the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 – above the legal limit.
As of August 20th of this year Utah has already experienced 636 automobile crashes due to drowsy driving. And according to driving facts in an article written in the Salt Lake Tribune between 2006 and 2010 Utah averaged 1,220 crashes and 32 deaths each year!
Even more alarming is our young people are not driving safely. In 2012 AAA surveyed 16 – 24 year olds and one in seven admitted to nodding off while driving within the last year!
Safe driving tips for those who experience drowsy driving include switching drivers, taking a 10 to 20 minute power nap, getting out of the car and stretching for a few minutes, asking someone else to drive you, or even finding a place to stay for the night. These are all tips I plan on using to make sure that I drive safely.