While most people use common sense when it comes to drinking and driving, many of those same people think nothing of driving while drowsy. And, it can make you potentially as dangerous as having had too much to drink. Pick your poison. Both are a deadly combination.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adult drivers admit to being fatigued and driving in the past year. So, the likelihood of having a crash with someone either drunk or sleepy behind the wheel increases dramatically.
Sure, you can always chew gum, turn up the radio or roll your window down to get some fresh air, but those typical alertness-boosting tactics often prove ineffective. And, that makes you a major risk on the road, not only to yourself and your passengers, but also to other motorists.
The problem with getting drowsy behind the wheel is that it can actually sneak up on you. Unlike being inebriated, you may feel fit enough to drive when you first get in the driver’s seat. However, on long commutes or road trips, you can easily find yourself unable to keep your eyes open. No matter how hard you fight it…your eyelids are going to shut and you’re headed for possible disaster.
That’s why, on long trips, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend you pull over every 2 hours or so to lighten your heavy eyelids. If you’re too drowsy to drive, take a short 20 minute nap before heading back on the road.
The National Sleep Foundation says you may be too drowsy to drive if:
• You’re having a tough time focusing
• You’re yawning excessively
• You keep drifting in and out of daydreams
• You’re missing traffic signs, exits or running lights
• You’re having trouble staying in your lane
• You’re unable to keep your head up and eyes open
In case you think you’re immune from driving drowsy, below are statistics provided by DrowsyDriving.org to show how prevalent the problem of being sleepy behind the wheel is in the United States.
• 168 million motorists have driven drowsy in the past year
• $12.5 billion in annual monetary losses are attributed to fatigue-related crashes
• 1,550 estimated deaths are blamed on fatigue-related crashes each year
• 15 percent of heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
• 12.5 percent of crashes requiring hospitalization are the result of fatigue
Although lack of sleep is often considered the main factor of drowsy driving, it can also be caused by untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, or by prescription and cold medications, drinking alcohol or working extended shifts of 12 or more hours.
Repeated scientific studies show that being sleepy behind the wheel greatly affects your ability to drive safely. Simply fighting to stay awake – even if you don’t fall asleep – makes you dangerous and a clear risk of causing death or injury to yourself or someone else.
So, be sure to get enough sleep and treat fatigue the same way you would if you’ve had too much to drink by having someone else do the driving. Otherwise, you could run the risk being found at fault in an accident – and, that can send your auto insurance rates through the roof.
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Have you ever fallen asleep at the wheel? What was the outcome? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.