How did you sleep last night? Do you feel well rested today? I ask because this week is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.
“Drowsy Driving kills, and is the equivalent of driving drunk, drugged and distracted,” said Cynthia Harris, spokeswoman for AAA of Northern California. This, because driving while fatigued impacts reaction time, judgment and vision, causing tired drivers to behave similarly to those who are intoxicated.
According to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, drowsy drivers are responsible for one of every six deadly crashes and one in eight crashes causing serious injury. These figures are significantly higher than previous estimates, confirming researcher suspicions that drowsy driving’s impact on traffic collisions, injuries and deaths “has been greatly underestimated,” said Harris.
Meanwhile, a 2011 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey found that 96 percent of drivers polled feel that drowsy driving is unacceptable behavior behind the wheel. Still, 32 percent of them admitted to driving while they were so tired that they had trouble keeping their eyes open during the past month. What’s more, statistics show that two out of every eight, or 41 percent of, drivers said they have fallen asleep while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle at some point. One in ten admitted to doing so in past years, even while traveling at high speeds. Meanwhile, drivers ages 16-24 were nearly twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash as drivers ages 40-59, the survey found.
How do you know when you are sleepy? You:
- Have heavy eyelids or have difficulty keeping your eyes open and focused.
- Are having trouble keeping your head upright.
- Find yourself drifting, swerving, tailgating or hitting rumple strips.
- Miss traffic signs or pass your exit or turning point.
- Yawn a lot and rub your eyes.
- Feel restless and/or irritable.
Avoid falling asleep behind the wheel and causing a crash by:
- Getting plenty of sleep before a long trip – at least seven hours
- Stop driving if you become sleepy because you could fall asleep at any time.
- Travel during times of day you are normally awake.
- Take a break every 100 miles of travel.
- Take a 20-30 minute break to drink a caffeinated beverage, which take that long to enter the bloodstream.
- Travel with someone who will stay awake during the trip and can be an alternate driver should you start to feel sleepy.
Learn more about drowsy driving at www.aaa.com/drivingtips.