Rousing information to keep you awake and alert while driving
The National Sleep Foundation has declared November 3-10 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. The topic of drowsy or sleepy driving is an often-overlooked area that needs recognition.
- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is a factor in more than 100,000 crashes, resulting in 6,550 deaths and 80,000 injuries annually in the United States.
- Sleep deprivation impairs coordination and judgment; causes longer reaction times, and impairs memory and ability to retain information, all skills that are needed to successfully operate a motor vehicle.
The National Sleep Foundation has discovered:
- Driving drowsy poses the same risks as driving while intoxicated. Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood-alcohol level of .05 (.08 is considered legally drunk). If you’ve been awake for 24 hours and drive, it’s similar to a blood-alcohol level of .10.
- The average adult’s alertness dips and rises at different times of the day. People are most sleepy between 2 and 4 a.m., and 1 and 3 p.m.
- Millions of Americans also experience excessive sleepiness as a result of sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
- In the United States, 250,000 drivers fall asleep at the wheel every day, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, in a study with the National Sleep Foundation.
- 54% of adult drivers said they had driven while drowsy during the past year with 28% saying they had actually fallen asleep while driving.
What are some warning signs that you’re too sleepy to drive?
- Repeatedly yawning, rubbing the eyes and frequent blinking
- Trouble focusing
- Trouble keeping the head up
- Drifting from lane to lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder or rumble strip
- Daydreaming or wandering thoughts
- Difficulty remembering the last few miles driven or missing exits and street signs
What can you do to drive safely?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine:
- Be aware of your behavior and the behavior of others on the road during the late-night, early morning and mid-afternoon hours when crashes caused by drowsy driving are most likely to occur. Plan a rest stop during these hours.
- Get a full night of rest before driving. If you become tired while driving, stop. A short nap (15 to 45 minutes) and consuming caffeine can help temporarily.
- Stop at regular intervals when driving long distances. Get out of the car every 2 hours to stretch and walk briskly.
- Try to set a limit of 300-400 miles of driving per day.
- Avoid taking medications that cause drowsiness.
- If you’re tired and in danger of falling asleep, you cannot predict when a “mini” sleep may occur.