Drowsy Driving Prevention - Help Reduce Auto Accidents in WA
Washington State Drowsy Driver Prevention Week was held last month to raise awareness across the state about the dangers of drowsy driving but as the busy holiday travel season approaches, this is critically important. With the roads much more crowded during this peak travel time one drowsy driver on the road is capable of harming untold numbers of people in a car accident.
Drowsy Driving As Bad As Driving Drunk
AAA conducted a survey on drowsy driving and found that more than 40% of drivers on our roads admit that they have fallen asleep or nodded off while driving. More than 25% of these drivers said they have driven when they were “so sleepy they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.”
The results of getting on the roads when tired are catastrophic: 16.5% of crashes that killed involved a drowsy driver.
Most of us know better than to get behind the wheel after we’ve had several drinks, but being a little sleepy may not throw up the same kind of red flags. You may think it’s okay to drive and that if you get tired, you’ll just pull over for some fresh air or stop for a cup of coffee. Driving while tired has similar effects as driving drunk – you’re more likely to have slower reaction times, affects decision making and makes you less attentive.
Who Are These Drowsy Drivers?
Most likely you’ve driven while tired – most people likely have done it. But it’s the drivers that habitually drive tired that are the most hazardous. Commercial drivers (truck drivers, delivery drivers, etc.), those that work long hours or third shift, those with sleep disorders, those that use prescription sleep or sedating medication (Ambien, Valium, etc.) and those that sleep little are most likely to drive tired.
According to the CDC, after you’ve been awake 18 hours, you’re operating your vehicle as if you have a blood alcohol content of .05%. After 24 hours without sleep, you’re similar to blood alcohol of .10% which is above the legal limit in every state. And if you’ve had inadequate sleep and imbibe even a small amount of alcohol, your ability to drive safely will be even more impaired.
When Are You at Risk from a Drowsy Driver?
The simple truth is that you are at risk at any hour of the day or night from being struck by a drowsy driver. Roughly one-quarter of drowsy drivers admitted to driving tired between noon and 5 pm. Another quarter of those drivers admitted to driving sleepily between midnight and 6 pm. The later hours are the ones you’d expect for driving tired, but the daylight hours are just as dangerous.
You might think you’re more at risk for driving tired at the end of a trip but most sleepy drivers nodded off within an hour of hitting the roadways. Here’s something to think about – drunkenness comes on gradually, but the sleep switch can flip more quickly.
Sleep specialist Dr. William Dement says, “At one moment we are awake, and can see and hear. A fraction of a second later we are asleep, and we are completely blind and completely deaf.”
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving
If you’re planning a road trip over the holidays, there are some precautions you can take to make sure you’re wide awake, not putting your loved ones in your vehicle or others on the road at risk.
First, make sure you routinely get between seven and nine hours a sleep each night to keep you from being overtired while on the road.
Prior to your trip, be sure you don’t short yourself by staying up late, packing or wrapping gifts. Even a couple of hours of sleep skipped could make you a danger on the roads. And while driving, caffeine can help you stay awake, but it’s even more effective if you pull over for a quick nap and then grab your cup of joe to top off the refresh.