You are probably aware of the risks of drunk and distracted driving, but do you know the danger you and your passengers are in when you drive drowsy? In today’s bustling society, drowsy driving is becoming a major problem on U.S. roadways. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60% of Americans admit to driving while sleepy and 37% admit to falling asleep behind the wheel. What’s more, as many as one in every six fatal car collisions is the result of driving drowsy. This is why it is important to understand how to detect and prevent drowsy driving.
Studies show that attempting to drive after having being awake for 18 hours puts you at equal risk as driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. Although there are laws that prevent drivers from driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, there are no laws that regulate the equally dangerous practice of driving while drowsy. There is no test or legal limit to determine whether you have had enough rest to operate a vehicle safely. This means the responsibility is yours to make sure your sleeping habits are not affecting your ability to drive safely.
Falling asleep at the wheel is clearly the worst case scenario; however, simply driving while you feel sleepy can be very dangerous. Sleep deprivation leads to cognitive decline similar to that of alcohol consumption. Drowsiness slows reaction time, reduces attentiveness, and disrupts a driver’s ability to make important decisions behind the wheel. Driving while sleepy can quickly turn into nodding off while driving, which puts you, your passengers, and others on the road at a serious risk of a fatal crash.
The first step to preventing drowsy driving is understanding how your lifestyle is putting you at risk. A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that young men, shift workers, and parents are at the greatest risk for driving while drowsy. Commercial drivers, drivers taking sedating medications, drivers dealing with untreated sleep disorders, and drivers who simply do not get enough sleep are also more likely to drive while drowsy.
The next step to prevention is a given: get enough sleep. The National Institute of Health suggests that adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep and adolescents get 9 to 10 hours in order to have optimal cognitive function throughout the day. If you have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, don’t let it go untreated. Something as seemingly insignificant as snoring may be affecting the quality of your sleep even if you are getting the recommended amount. If you know you are going to be driving, it is important to plan ahead. Turn in early, refrain from drinking or using certain sedation medications, and seek another licensed driving companion.
The final step is recognizing when you are driving drowsy and taking action. If you find yourself blinking or yawning frequently, struggling to remember the last few miles, daydreaming, or feeling restless or cranky, you may not be fit to drive. If you are drifting from your lane, hitting rumble strips, tailgating, or missing exits, don’t hesitate to take a rest stop. Switch drivers if you are able. Pull over at a rest stop to stretch your legs or take a nap. Better yet, call it a night and get a fresh start in the morning. Taking the time to make sure you are awake and attentive behind the wheel is always worth your while.
One of the most effective preventative steps is to bring the most effective technology into your safe driving arsenal. This means contacting Safe Drive Systems today. Safe Drive System’s technology will act as your visual and auditory aid, to keep you aware of your surroundings. By issuing advanced lane departure and collision warning, our systems will help reduce the risks of drowsy, distracted, or impaired driving. Safe Drive Systems can’t replace important hours of sleep, but they can keep you as alert and aware as possible behind the wheel.