[su_dropcap style=”default” size=”3″ class=””]D[/su_dropcap]rowsy driving takes center stage November 2-9 during Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. Spearheaded by the National Sleep Foundation, this week is used to build public awareness of the dangers of sleepless and sleepy drivers. The organization also encourages politicians at local, state, and national levels to evaluate and improve legislation pertaining to preventing the prevalence of unsafe drivers on the road.
Drowsy Driving Awareness
Though most drivers acknowledge that dangers of driving while sleep-deprived exist, its prevalence indicates that it is not taken seriously enough. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than half of drivers admit to have driven while tired. In fact, one in five admit to nodding off while driving. The majority of these drivers are young—between the ages of 18 and 29—and male.
More importantly, driving while sleep-deprived has nearly the same impact as driving under the influence of alcohol. In 2007, The National Center of Biotechnology Information published a study that found that drivers who were awake for 18 hours straight exhibited the same lack of alertness and response of drivers with a blood alcohol count of .05%. By the time these drivers hit 24 hours of missed sleep, under-the-influence equivalency matched that of one with a BAC of 0.10%—well over the legal limit everywhere in the United States.
Even a regulated amount of sleep can increase the dangers of drowsy driving. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that those who sleep 6-7 hours of sleep are twice as likely to cause accidents as those who receive the recommended 8 hours or more.
The results of driving with a lack of or limited amount of sleep can be disastrous. Over 100,000 accidents are thought to be attributed to drowsy drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 2.5% of these vehicle accidents are fatal and another 2% of these result in injury.
How You Can Prevent Drowsy Driving
Becoming aware of the effects of drowsy driving is the first step in increasing your safety behind the wheel. Knowing what a lack of sleep can do to your body can help you identify and act upon the following signs of sleep deprivation:
- Trouble focusing or remembering
- Slow reaction to stimulus such as lights or sound
- Excessive yawning, blinking, or “droopy” eyes
- Ability to fall asleep in a short amount of time or in an unusual place/time
If you exhibit any of these signs, it is important that you avoid driving until you are properly rested. Pulling over to a designated rest stop or to a well-lit parking immediately is your best option if you cannot make it home or to a hotel.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests several ways to prevent drowsy driving by properly resting and planning ahead of a car trip. First, sleeping for the recommended 8 hours or more can ensure that you are prepared for the road. Second, if you are driving for long durations, you should also plan 15-20 minute power naps along your route. Finally, scheduling stops for stretching, napping, and switching drivers (if possible) can ensure that your driving is as alert as possible.
Pledge to Avoid Drowsy Driving
In honor of Drowsy Driving Awareness Week, you can promise to be an alert and educated driver by taking the pledge through the National Sleep Foundation’s website. Your agreement to get a healthy amount of sleep, nap when needed, and take frequent breaks will help improve our roadways be safer.
How do you avoid driving drowsy?