The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) declared the week of November 5-12, 2017 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week in an effort to increase awareness and reduce the number of drowsy driving accidents in the United States. The campaign will educate drivers about sleep safety and countermeasures to improve road safety. Here are some tips on how to prevent fatigued driving the next time you are behind the wheel.
How to Avoid Drowsy Driving
Avoid drowsy driving and keep you and your family safe by following these tips:
- Get enough sleep – Experts advise getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep regularly, especially the night before a road trip.
- Know the signs of drowsy driving - Drifting from your lane, hitting a rumble strip, yawning, and difficulty remembering the past few miles are signs that you are too tired to drive. If you notice these signs, take a break.
- Take breaks – If you feel yourself getting tired, pull over to a safe area and take a nap or switch drivers, if possible.
- Seek treatment for difficulty sleeping - See a doctor for treatment if you think you may have a sleep disorder or otherwise have trouble sleeping.
- Avoid drives during your “sleep time” - Most drowsy driving accidents occur between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., according to the NHTSA. This is because most people’s schedules require them to be asleep at that time. Avoid driving when you would normally be sleeping.
- Avoiding alcohol or medications that may make you tired before driving – Some medications, and even small amounts of alcohol, can make you tired. Avoid drinking or taking these medications before getting in your car.
The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
People experience sleep deprivation for a number of reasons including untreated sleep disorders (e.g. sleep apnea, narcolepsy), stress, and interrupted sleep. It turns out that sleep deprivation can significantly affect your ability to operate your vehicle safely. If you are lacking sleep, you may:
- Fall asleep behind the wheel and veer into oncoming traffic
- Have difficulty making quick decisions
- Struggle to pay attention to the road and other vehicles
- Make errors in judgment
- Have blurred vision
- Act aggressively towards other drivers
Who Is At Risk For Drowsy Driving?
There are many groups of people susceptible to driving while tired. Young adults between 18 and 29 are more likely to drive drowsy than other groups. Truck drivers also may drive while fatigued due to their grueling schedules. Late shift workers, nurses, doctors, police officers, and other people who work long shifts may also be at risk for drowsy driving.
Is Drowsy Driving Really That Dangerous?
In Washington, the Washington State Department of Transportation found that more than 2,700 accidents involved an ill, asleep, or fatigued driver. Investigators may rely on a lack of skid marks or other signs the driver failed to take evasive action as evidence that the driver was asleep or fatigued. But there is no definitive test to identify drowsy driving as the cause of an accident. So, these statistics may be an underestimate.
According to a study by AAA, sleep-deprived drivers who get less than seven hours of sleep are at greater risk of a car accident. People with less than four hours of sleep are 12 times more likely to crash than those who have gotten a full night’s rest. Even getting five to six hours of sleep makes you almost twice more likely to get in an accident than someone driving on seven hours of rest.
Despite the thousands of fatigue-related traffic deaths every year, drowsy driving does not get nearly as much attention as drunk driving or distracted driving as a risk to traffic safety. However, studies have shown that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Follow the above tips to make sure you avoid drowsy driving at all costs.