Drowsy driving – Do you know the dangers?
Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. It is the dangerous combination of driving when sleepy. This usually happens when a driver has not slept enough, but it can also happen because of untreated sleep disorders like Sleep Apnea. People with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders are 7 times more likely to fall asleep at the wheel. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can also cause drowsiness, and alcohol can interact with sleepiness to increase both impairment and drowsiness.
Nearly 30 percent of American drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel, according to a recent National Sleep Foundation poll, and more than half said they have driven while drowsy.
Maybe it has happened to you. You end up at your destination and don’t even remember much of the drive. You jerk awake when you hear the rumble strips and realize the vehicle was drifting toward the shoulder. Drowsy driving is impaired driving. It affects your ability to drive safely, even if you do not fall asleep at the wheel.
Drowsy driving can:
- Slow down your reaction time
- Decrease awareness
- Impair judgment
- Decrease eye hand coordination
- Increase your risk of crashing
Whenever you are getting ready to drive, ask yourself, “Am I alert enough to operate a 3,000-pound moving machine on public roads?”
Drowsy Driving = Impaired Driving
Being awake for 17- 19 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. After longer periods without sleep, performance reached levels equivalent to a BAC of 0.1%.
Who is most at risk?
- Young people, especially males under age 26
- Shift workers and people with long work hours
- Commercial and long-haul drivers
- People with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders
- Business travelers who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged
Just like drunk, drugged, and distracted driving, drowsy driving is a real public health issue. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsy driving has caused thousands of car crashes each year killing an estimated 6,400 people in the U.S. alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports an estimated 100,000 crashes each year are caused primarily by drowsy driving, resulting in more than 71,000 injuries and $12.5 million in damages.
8 Drowsy Driving Warning Signs to Watch for:
- Finding it hard to focus on the road, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Starting to daydream, wandering eyes, and having disconnected thoughts
- Having trouble remembering the last few miles you’ve driven
- Missing an exit or ignoring traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Finding it hard to keep your head up or nodding off
- Drifting from your lane or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Restlessness, irritability, and aggressiveness including tailgating
If you notice these warning signs for drowsy driving, pull over to a safe place and get some rest. Get out and stretch your legs or drink a caffeinated beverage. Simply turning up the radio or opening a window are not effective ways to keep you alert. Resume driving once you feel more alert and refreshed.
Falling asleep at the wheel is preventable! Here are some things you can do before hitting the road:
- Get the recommended amount of sleep the night before your trip.
- Plan your long trips with a companion.
- Schedule regular stops for your trip, every 100 miles or two hours.
- Avoid alcohol and be aware of any medications that may cause drowsiness.
Get the sleep you need to be alert and refreshed when you drive
Consult one of our sleep medicine specialists here at Comprehensive Sleep Care Center if you are experiencing frequent daytime sleepiness or often have difficulty staying awake while driving. Call our office and make an appointment with one of our sleep medicine professionals. Let us help you to Say Hello to Sleep Again.