21Nov 2017

Drowsiness and Driving – A Dangerous Combination

In June of 2014, actor/comedian Tracy Morgan suffered serious injuries and a fellow passenger died, when a semi-truck struck their limousine on the New Jersey Turnpike. The truck driver had been awake for 28 hours straight prior to the accident. Investigators concluded that his lack of sleep was the cause of the accident.

This crash brought national attention to the problem of drowsy driving. What many may still not know is that fatigued drivers are a danger on the roadways long before 28 hours of no sleep.

So, what constitutes being sleep-deprived?

Drowsy driving increases your chances of being in an accident.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers who do not get at least seven hours of sleep in a given day are nearly 1.5 times more likely to be in a traffic accident than those that do. Drivers who get only four-to-five hours of sleep are more than four times as likely to be in a crash. That rate continues to go up with each additional hour of no sleep.

Driving while drowsy reduces your awareness on the road. As a result, you’re not as quick to react if someone cuts in front of you, an animal runs out onto the roadway, or an object flies off or out of another vehicle.

Even worse, you can actually fall asleep at the wheel.

So how do I know if I’m too tired to drive?

There’s no tool that can determine if you’re too drowsy to drive. You have to rely on your own good judgment–and pay attention to warning signs that might indicate you are too tired to drive:

  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Frequently blinking or rubbing your eyes.
  • Drifting from your traffic lane.

Drowsy driving does not get the same amount of media coverage that drunk driving and distracted driving do, but is just as dangerous. It can also be prevented.

If you’re driving somewhere and start to feel drowsy, find a rest stop, hotel, or other safe place where sleeping is allowed, and take a nap. Make sure you feel fully rested and alert before you start off again. If you’re headed out on a long trip, you might consider bringing someone else along to share the driving or maybe splitting the diving time over multiple days.

Whatever you do, it’s best not to continue on if you’re getting drowsy behind the wheel.

For more information, see the National Sleep Foundation’s Tips to avoid drowsy driving and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Brochure: How to Avoid Drowsy Driving.

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