Drowsy Driving - General Driver Safety
You may have been on an extended road trip and found yourself on an abandoned highway in the middle of the night. Or you pulled an all-nighter to finish a project and are driving to work in morning rush hour traffic. The truth is, you were driving impaired, even if you didn’t feel like it. In a recent National Sleep Foundation poll, 60% of adult drivers admitted to driving while drowsy some time in the past year, and 37% actually fell asleep while driving! Four percent of these people got into accidents or near accidents as a result of their drowsiness.
Even if you never actually fall asleep behind the wheel, driving drowsy is dangerous! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when you are sleep-deprived, you have:
- Slower reaction time
- Smaller attention span
- Slower ability to make decisions
- Increased irritability and aggression
All of these things can make driving unsafe, according to the CDC. In fact, the CDC estimates that up to 6,000 car crashes each year involve at least one drowsy driver. And while this may not be you, chances are good that you’ve shared the road with a sleep-deprived driver before, and these people are more likely to be commercial drivers, shift workers, those taking sleeping medications, and those who get less than 6 hours of sleep per night.
Studies have shown that severe cognitive impairment has been found in sleep-deprived people, similar to that of people who have been drinking. If you have been awake 18 hours or more, your brain operates as if your BAC was 0.05%, or the equivalent of 3 alcoholic drinks! That is just under the legal BAC limit in Georgia. If you stay awake for more than 24 hours, your impairment is equal to an approximate BAC of 0.10%, well over the legal limit.
We know that drowsy driving is serious, and we want everyone to get home safely. Here are some tips from the CDC on how to prevent sleepy driving:
- Get enough sleep every night. 7-9 hours is adequate for most adults.
- Treat any underlying sleep disorder like sleep apnea or chronic insomnia.
- If you take sleeping pills, take them earlier in the evening, and don’t drive in the morning until you feel alert.
- During long drives, pull over and rest at regular intervals or when you start to feel sleepy.
- If possible, try to drive during peak waking hours (not early morning or late night).
- If you are a commercial driver or shift worker, follow your employers’ rules for safe and acceptable working shift limits, and try to get your body on a reasonable sleep/rest schedule.
For more tips and information about how to prevent drowsy driving, visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine at http://www.sleepeducation.org
Make the commitment to stay out of the driver’s seat when you’re exhausted, and opt for a friend or loved one to drive for you, or choose for public transportation. And if you want to learn more about how to be a safe and mindful driver, we have lots of great information and instructional videos here at iRideSafe™!
National Sleep Foundation
American Academy of Sleep Medicine