Driving While Drowsy Presents Very Serious Threat
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 28 percent of American drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel and 54 percent admit they have driven while drowsy.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100, 000 police-reported auto accidents are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1, 550 deaths, 71, 000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. The actual figures may be higher, since it is difficult to attribute crashes to sleepiness, because there is no test to verify this as a cause as in drug/alcohol related cases where there is the breathalyzer test.
If you start to do any of the following, please find a safe place to pull off the road:
- Trouble focusing
- Blinking frequently
- Feel your eyelids becoming very heavy
- Swerve out of your lane
- Following another car too closely and having trouble estimating a safe distance
- Running over reflector strips on the roadway in between lanes
- Miss an exit or run through a traffic sign
- Have trouble keeping your head straight up
- Yawn repeatedly
- Find yourself rolling down the windows or turning up the radio to try to stay awake
Here are the National Sleep Foundation’s Countermeasures to Prevent Driver Fatigue Crashes:
Get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road.
Do not be too rushed to arrive at your destination. Many drivers try to maximize the time at their destination by driving at night or without stopping for breaks. It is much safer to allow the time to drive alert and arrive alive.
Use the buddy system. Just as you should not swim alone, avoid driving alone for long distances. Someone who can remain awake for the journey can take a turn behind the wheel and help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
Take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours. Do something to keep yourself refreshed and alert, like getting a snack, switching drivers, or going for a run.
Take a nap—find a safe place to take a 15 to 20-minute nap, if you think you might fall asleep. Be careful to recognize excessive drowsiness after you wake up.
Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness as a side effect.
Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
Consume caffeine. The equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours, but remember this does not take the place of sleep. If you are feeling drowsy and need to stop to rest, then please do so.