Drowsy Driving can be an issue for everyone
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America poll, 60% of adult drivers (about 168 million people) say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, and 37% (103 million people), have actually fallen asleep at the wheel!
Drowsy driving has become an issue that up until recently was not looked at seriously. Driving drowsy is just as dangerous as drunk driving or driving while texting. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
Drowsy driving has several effects similar to drunk or driving with texting. Drowsy drivers are less attentive, their reaction time is slower, and most importantly it affects a driver’s ability to make decisions. It is better to be a safe driver than to cause an accident hurting or possibly killing the people around you. Because of the issues created by drowsy driving several states have started “drowsy driving laws” to help curb drowsy driving.
“Cognitive impairment after approximately 18 hours awake is similar to that of someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%. After about 24 hours awake, impairment is equivalent to a BAC of 0.10%, higher than the legal limit in all states.” (Williamson AM, Feyer AM. Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occup Environ Med. 2000;57(10):649-55.)
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the groups that are at a higher risk are young people, shift workers, and people with untreated sleep conditions. Young people are at risk because of a combination of having more of the chronic and acute risk factors and frequently being on the roads during nighttime hours (greater exposure) may explain the greater incidence of drowsiness-related crashes in youth. Shift Workers are at risk because of circadian phase disruptions caused by rotating shift work are associated with lapses of attention, increased reaction time, and decreased performance. People with untreated sleep conditions are at risk because people who can recognize impending uncontrollable sleepiness and take precautions is less likely to be at risk than one who is unaware of or denies his or her sleepiness.
Here are some symptoms of drowsy driving:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and/or heavy eyelids
- Difficulty keeping reveries or daydreams at bay
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating and/or hitting rumble strips
- Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven
- Missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly
- Feeling restless, irritable, or aggressive.
Here are some drowsy driving tips:
- Get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road. You’ll want to be alert for the drive, so be sure to get adequate sleep (seven to nine hours) the night before you go.
- Don’t be too rushed to arrive at your destination. Many drivers try to maximize the holiday weekend by driving at night or without stopping for breaks. It’s better to allow the time to drive alert and arrive alive.
- Use the buddy system. Just as you should not swim alone, avoid driving alone for long distances. A buddy who remains awake for the journey can take a turn behind the wheel and help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
- Take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours. Do something to refresh yourself like getting a snack, switching drivers, or going for a run.
- Take a nap—find a safe place to take a 15 to 20-minute nap, if you think you might fall asleep. Be cautious about excessive drowsiness after waking up.
- Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness as a side-effect.
- Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
- Consume caffeine. The equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours.
(National Sleep Foundation)
By following this information you can drive safety by managing risk when driving.
Here are some websites where you can get more information: