Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving! According to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than one-in-five (21 percent) fatal crashes involve driver fatigue. According to Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Unfortunately, drivers often underestimate this risk and overestimate their ability to combat drowsiness behind the wheel.”
More attention has been paid to drowsy driving since the June 2014 accident involving a Walmart tractor-trailer and the limousine carrying well-known comedian Tracy Morgan on the New Jersey Turnpike that left one dead and the comedian seriously injured. Unfortunately, it has been an unappreciated problem for much longer.
The National Sleep Foundations recommends adults sleep 7 to 9 hours every night, while teenagers require at least 9 hours or more to achieve the optimal level of daytime alertness needed. Because the light from computers and cell phones are suspected of interfering with one's circadian rhythms, the team behind the Healthy Sleep Project recommend that parents set restrictions on “screen time” before bed time, and teach the warning signs of drowsy driving:
- Having trouble focusing, keeping your eyes open or your head up
- Yawning or rubbing your eyes repeatedly
- Daydreaming and wandering thoughts
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating and missing signs and exits
- Feeling restless, irritable or aggressive
- Exhibiting slower reaction time or poor judgment
- Being unaware of the last few miles
- Finding that you are tailgating the car in front of you
- Missing road signs or driving past your exit
- Drifting into other lanes of traffic, onto the “rumble strip” or the shoulder of the road
If you experience any of these symptoms of drowsiness, pull over immediately at a safe place, switch drivers, take a short nap, consume coffee or find a place to sleep through the night. Do not drive if you are taking a medication that can cause drowsiness or times when you would normally be asleep. Do not rely on the radio or an open window to wake you up. If you need devices to keep you awake, you should not be on the road.
Who is most at risk for falling asleep behind the wheel? According to www.DrowsyDriving.org, young drivers, shift workers or people working long hours, commercial drivers, business travelers, and people with untreated sleep disorders are most at risk; however, anyone can be at risk under some circumstances. The National Sleep Foundation stresses the importance of practicing healthful sleep habits because the one-third of our lives we spend sleeping plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be.