Drowsy Driving: It’s Time to Wake Up
We’ve all been there. For whatever reason, we just didn’t get a good night sleep. Usually this just results in some grogginess and irritability the next day. But what most people don’t realize is that if you happen to get behind the wheel, your sleep deprivation could actually lead to some serious, even life-threatening consequences. In this post, we’ll discuss the danger of drowsy driving, what warning signs to look out for, and relay some tips that may just save you from a potential disaster.
A Hidden Danger
While drunk and distracted driving get most of the attention, drowsy driving can actually be just as dangerous. In 2016, AAA reported that missing 2 to 3 hours of sleep can quadruple a driver’s chances of being involved in an accident as compared to someone who got seven hours of sleep.
It should be no surprise then that a recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety of 589 vehicle crashes found that drowsy driving was a factor in nearly 10% of them.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving and drunk driving can actually be quite similar. “Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05. If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive, it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10.” Additionally, both impairments can have similar effects on the body including a lack of focus, slowed reaction time, and faulty decision making.
With statistics showing 60% of American adult drivers admitting to driving while feeling drowsy, and an additional 37% admitting that they have actually fallen asleep while behind the wheel, education is desperately needed to help stem the epidemic.
Signs of Drowsy Driving
The first step in curtailing the dangers of drowsy driving involve being able to identify the warning signs.
The National Sleep Foundation list some things to look out for:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
Tips for Avoiding Drowsy Driving
Obviously the best, and only surefire preventative measure against drowsy driving is to ensure that you have gotten an adequate night’s sleep before getting behind the wheel. However, we all lead busy lives and sometimes that full night’s rest just isn’t possible. So if you must drive, here are some tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to help avoid a drowsy driving related accident:
- If possible, arrange for someone else to give you a ride when you are tired or when you know that you will be unable to get enough sleep
- Avoid driving alone late at night
- Share the driving with another passenger when taking a long trip
- Avoid drinking any alcohol prior to driving. Consumption of alcohol interacts with sleepiness to increase drowsiness and impairment
- Never take any medications that could cause sleepiness prior to driving
- Use public transportation when possible
- Stay vigilant for signs of drowsiness such as crossing over roadway lines, or hitting rumble strips
- Drink 1-2 cups of coffee for a short term boost
- Find somewhere safe, like a designated rest stop and pull over for a nap
Getting the proper amount of sleep is imperative not only for your ability to drive safely, but for your overall health. While it’s unfortunately not always possible to be completely rested every day, following these tips will at least help mitigate the chances of injuring yourself or others due to a drowsy driving-related accident.