We know that driving while drowsy is risky. We might know, too, that it is a cause of thousands of car crashes a year. We might even be aware that drowsy driving kills about 6,400 people every year. Yet many of us go ahead and do it anyway.
We are confident in our ability to drive even though we have had too little sleep the night before or even when we find ourselves in danger of falling asleep while we are at the wheel. We shake ourselves awake and continue driving. After all, we just have to reach our destination no matter what.Read More »
Millions drive while drowsy
Most drivers’ approach to drowsy driving is clear from a recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation. It found that although 95% of Americans are aware that it is risky to drive while you are drowsy, an estimated 37 million drive while drowsy at least once a year.
In the survey more than six in every 10 drivers admitted that they had driven a car at a time when they were so tired that they had a tough time keeping their eyes open. That number translates to 150 million American motorists.
Campaign for proper sleep
The foundation conducted the survey as part of a campaign to encourage Americans to get the right amount of sleep. In that way, the foundation believes, they can help to reduce the number of those people who drive while they are deprived of sleep.
Its members are so concerned about drowsy driving that it calls the problem an issue of public health.
Other findings in the survey:
• Almost 20% of people who drive are excessively confident that they are able to drive after they have slept for only two hours or even less the night before.
• Those drivers who do sleep for the recommended time each night—seven to nine hours for most adults—are less inclined to drive while they are drowsy.
• Members of what the foundation calls “historically excluded groups” are at a higher risk of driving while they are drowsy. The foundation says it is working at understanding what social factors are involved in determining whether one is inclined to drive while drowsy.
Driving while drowsy is impaired driving, says Dr. Joseph Dzierzewski who is Vice President for research and scientific affairs at the National Sleep Foundation. The good news behind these findings, however, is that drowsy driving can be prevented.
How to lessen your risk
The foundation offers active steps that we can take to lessen the risk that we will drive while drowsy. They are:
• Get a full night’s sleep.
Before you drive, make sure you get the amount of sleep that is recommended. Adults should have from seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Teens should sleep for eight to 10 hours.
Everyone should make sure that they get sufficient sleep, says John Lopos, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation.
Put simply, if you are not getting sufficient quality sleep you might not be fit to drive a motor vehicle, he adds.
• Take a companion with you on long trips.
A passenger can help by watching you for signs that you are becoming drowsy. A companion also can help by driving the vehicle when needed.
The foundation describes a good companion as one who will remain awake and talk to you as well as be aware of how alert you are.
• Stop regularly.
Take a break from driving every two hours or after you have driven 100 miles.
• Watch yourself for signs of drowsiness.
Signs that you might be becoming drowsy include yawning, blinking often, or when you are having trouble controlling your speed or keeping your vehicle in a traffic lane.