Ahh, summer time. When family vacations sometimes involve long, long drives after a full day of sight-seeing or outdoor activities and you’re pooped. Drowsy driving can put everything at risk and has been shown to be as dangerous as drunk driving. Here are some statistics and solutions that can shed light on this risky activity and why knowing the signs and symptom and taking action is vital to everyone’s safety.
A recent white paper by the National Sleep Foundation explained the consequences of drowsy driving from a human and financial perspective. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that one out of every six deadly traffic accidents, and one out of eight crashes requiring hospitalization of car drivers or passengers is due to drowsy driving. More than one-quarter of drivers admitting they had driven while they were “so sleepy that [they] had a hard time keeping [their] eyes open” within the past month and more than one-quarter of drivers admitting they had driven while they were “so sleepy that [they] had a hard time keeping [their] eyes open” within the past month.
These are very scary stats, whether you are a driver or a passenger. With over 70 million people nationwide suffering from a sleep disorder, drowsy driving is the most serious and impactful consequence of insufficient sleep. How do we make sure we recognize the signs of drowsy driving and take action to keep our families, ourselves and other drivers safe when it hits?
The National Road Safety Foundation has identified some of the signs that will detect if you’re driving drowsy.
- Difficulty focusing
- Frequent blinking
- Daydreaming at the wheel
- Drifting from your lane
- Swerving or tailgating
- Can’t remember last few miles driven
- Yawning and head snaps
- Missing exits or traffic signs
- Irritability or aggressiveness
They also state that as a passenger, it is your responsibility to pay attention to the road as well. If you are feeling tired, make sure the driver is not drowsy too. You are the driver’s second pair of eyes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, vehicles in which the driver was accompanied by a passenger were nearly 50% less likely to be involved in a crash.
So what steps can we take to reduce our risk of drowsy driving ourselves? Here’s a few sleep hygiene instructions and tips. Some seem like common sense but others you may not have considered.
- Get the proper amount of sleep for your age group. Every time you miss sleep, try to catch up immediately.
- DON’T DRIVE WHEN TIRED! Before a trip, get a good night’s sleep. Drive during daylight to reduce night-time driving when possible.
- No junk or high-fat foods. In fact, eat light especially in the evening and exercise regularly.
- Avoid caffeinated, energy drinks and sugar-laden snacks for short-term energy. Staying hydrated with plain old water is your best bet.
- Don’t ignore signs of drowsiness. Pull over to a safe rest area to take a nap or for the rest of the night.
No matter how inconvenient it might seem to pull over before your next scheduled stop, for the safety of yourself, those with you and other people on the road, it’s important you recognize the signs of drowsy driving and take appropriate action to keep everyone safe this summer and all year long.
If you feel you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, make sure you talk to your doctor or see a sleep specialist for further diagnosis and treatment. Good sleep is a reachable dream!