We’ve all done it. Staying out late for work, or a ballgame or maybe dinner with friends and now it is time to head home. You pull out of the parking lot, head out on the road and suddenly a wave of exhausting and drowsiness envelops you and you have miles to go. You think to yourself, open a window? Maybe if you blast the radio? Maybe if you close one eye for a while and rest it, and then close the other eye for just a moment.
In a split-second you are heading across the yellow line or on a direct trajectory with a telephone pole.
First a few statistics about drowsy driving:
- According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly ¼ of all adults in the U.S. claim to know someone personally who has fallen asleep at the wheel.
- 70 Million adults are sleep deprived or suffer from sleep disorders. It is a major contributor to car crashes. (Source: American Automobile Association)
- One out of six deadly traffic accidents are a direct result of drowsy driving.
And each year, the number of accidents attributed to drowsy driving is increasing. Almost 10% more accidents are the result of people falling asleep. Stress, overwork, overpromising, the responsibilities of daily life and meeting constant schedules are attributed to the increase. As well as not enough hours in the day.
Who's more likely to drive drowsy?
- Long haul commercial drivers, bus and tractor-trailer operators.
- Night or long-shift workers.
- Professionals such as nurses and doctors who work rotating shifts that are usually longer than 8 hours and are not on a set sleep schedule.
- College and high school students who balance school, work, and life.
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders such as one where breathing repeatedly stops and starts (sleep apnea).
- Workers to juggle multiple jobs (Two part-time jobs as opposed to one full-time).
Ways to prevent drowsy driving before you put the foot on the accelerator:
- Get enough sleep! Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a day, while teens need at least 8 hours.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Your body will self-regulate your sleep/awake patterns if you retire and wake the same time each day.
- If you have a sleep disorder such as Apnea or you are a frequent snorer, or you are constantly feeling sleepy during the day, talk to your physician.
- Be careful what medications you take before getting behind the wheel of the car. Allergy medicines, cough and cold tablets, (such as Benadryl) can make you drowsy.
- Don't drive between midnight and 6 a.m. Because of your body's biological rhythm, this is a time when sleepiness is most intense.
Signs of Drowsy Driving:
- Frequent Blinking
- Missed Exits
- Memory Issues/Going Blank
What to do if you find yourself becoming sleepy while driving:
- Short Term: Don't stare fixedly at one point. Look as far ahead as possible then check the mirrors left and right, then look ahead again. By focusing on objects close at hand and then in the distance, you will work the optic muscles and help to keep you alert.
- Long Term: Pull into a rest area or off an exit, find a “safe” parking lot and take a break.
Drowsy Driving can be overpowering. Suddenly you are sleepy and nodding off and no amount of Hard Rock, wind in your face or Red Bull will do. The only cure is sleep, and at least a ½ an hour of sleep will help to revitalize you and help you to safely continue your journey. Remember it is important to #arrive alive.