Drowsy driving prevention week has been observed every year since 2008. Drowsy driving is the act of operating a vehicle while sleepy, and it can affect anyone who gets behind the wheel. Drowsy driving awareness week was established in 2008 after a school bus was hit by a driver who had fallen asleep causing the tragic death of eight-year-old Ronshay Dugans.
Drowsy driving is often overlooked, but it’s an issue that is worth spreading awareness about. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that over $12.5 billion in monetary losses, 71,000 injuries, and over 1,550 deaths, are caused by drowsy driving crashes each year. That’s why America needs to wake up (literally) and realize how dangerous this behavior is.
To avoid driving drowsy focus on getting more sleep or taking naps during long drives. If you are sleepy while driving, pull over somewhere safe and take a nap before continuing your drive, or if you are driving with other passengers, who are able to drive, you can switch with them for a few hours to get some rest.
When pulling over to rest, be sure to avoid pulling over on a highway or busy road. Find a rest stop or a well-lit public parking lot. Use sunshades for privacy, earplugs, and an eye mask to help relax, and always remember to lock your car and avoid idling. Plan hotel stops along the way if you’re going on a long road trip. The cost and time of stopping are well worth it, especially when it is compared to saving a life.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that people who drive while drowsy are three times more likely to cause a crash than those who are well-rested. The foundation also identifies young adults between the ages of 16-25 as the most at risk. Shift workers who work long hours, commercial drivers, people with untreated sleep disorders, and people who travel for business, are also at high risk.
Drowsy driving is a serious threat to the safety of everyone on the road. Research shows that not getting adequate sleep affects your brain the same way drinking alcohol does. Both cases, exponentially increase the likelihood of a crash.
Here are our top five facts to remember about drowsy driving:
- Be sure to get enough sleep: Easier said than done for many people. Untreated sleep disorders can be an underlining result of drowsy driving.
- Drowsy driving is the 13th leading factor resulting in fatal crashes. According to a study by the NHTSA, 2.4% of all fatal crashes in the US are linked to drowsy driving.
- Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause drowsiness. Pay attention to the warning labels on the packaging.
- Do not replace sleep with caffeine! Caffeine can give a short-term boost of alertness. Many people do not realize that caffeine does not overcome the effects of drowsiness, especially when the effects of caffeine wear off.
- Statistically, teens do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation mixed with being an inexperienced driver makes this group particularly vulnerable to drowsy driving crashes.
It is also important to know the signs of drowsy driving:
- Constant yawning and having trouble keeping eyes open.
- Zoning out easily and not remembering the past few miles.
- Getting close to vehicles in front of you.
- Not being alert, easily missing signs or turns.
- Drifting into other lanes, onto the ‘rumble strip,’ or onto the shoulder of the road.
If you experience any of these drowsy symptoms while driving, please pull over to a safe location until you feel safe enough to get back on the road.
Overall, the best way to avoid drowsy driving begins with good-quality sleep, aka sleep hygiene. The Sleep Foundation has many great tips and resources about getting better nightly sleep, click here for more.