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November 6-12 Is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

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southbound I-15 – warning against drowsy driving

Because drowsy drivers cause about one of every six deadly traffic accidents, the National Sleep Foundation has launched Drowsy Driving Prevention Week® as a campaign from November 6-12 to educate drivers about sleep safety. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted last year showed that drowsy driving causes more accidents than experts previously believed, including one of every eight crashes in which people required hospitalization and one of every 14 crashes in which a vehicle had to be towed. NewsChannel34.com notes that this time of year is especially bad for drowsy driving because Daylight Savings Time ends, pushing clocks back an hour, which can result in drivers getting less sleep.

According to the AAA study, as reported by DrowsyDriving.org, younger drivers, ages 16-24, were nearly twice as likely to be involved in drowsy driving accidents as drivers ages 40-59. And approximately 57% of drowsy driving crashes involved the driver drifting into other lanes or off the road.

NewsChannel34.com quotes the Broome County [NY] Health Department:

Anyone who drives is at risk of falling asleep at the wheel but some groups are more at risk than others. Young drivers, shift workers, commercial drivers, business travelers and people with untreated sleep disorders are more likely to drive tired.

And as Staff Editor reports on HealthNewsDigest.com:

The National Road Safety Foundation, Inc. (NRSF), a non-profit group that produces free driver safety videos and information, says the time change means more driving is done in darkness, increasing the likelihood of drowsy driving.

‘Drowsy driving is a significant cause of traffic crashes,’ says David Reich of the National Road Safety Foundation, ‘with fatigue considered a factor in more than 100,000 crashes every year.’

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving crashes result in at least 1,500 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses each year. Studies show more than 60 percent of U.S. motorists have driven while fatigued, and nearly 37 percent admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel. At highway speeds, a driver who dozes for only four or five seconds can travel more than the length of a football field, crossing into oncoming traffic or off the road and into a tree.

“Don’t try to tough it out,” Reich says. “Fatigue can force your brain into ‘micro-sleeps’ lasting several seconds, which can have devastating results. We’ve seen too many examples of people trying to make it for the last few miles, only to crash a few blocks from home.”

Feeling sleepy at the wheel can cause a driver to have slower reaction times, impaired vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information. Studies show that it is possible to fall into a three-to-four second microsleep without knowing it, and that being awake for more than 20 hours impairs a person in a way that equals a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, the legal limit in all states.

“In terms of the risk of serious injury or death to the driver and passengers, drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving,” Reich said.

DrowsyDriving.org gives the following suggestions to prevent a “fall-asleep crash”:

•    Get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road. You’ll want to be alert for the drive, so be sure to get adequate sleep (seven to nine hours) the night before you go.

•    Don’t be too rushed to arrive at your destination. Many drivers try to maximize the holiday weekend by driving at night or without stopping for breaks.

•    It’s better 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. A buddy who remains 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 refresh yourself 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 cautious about excessive drowsiness after waking 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.

You can learn more about the AAA study and download the free brochure, “How To Avoid Drowsy Driving” (PDF), from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In addition, the National Road Safety Foundation, which produces films and teaching materials to train millions of young drivers about the dangers of drinking and driving, speeding, aggressive driving, and distracted driving, offers a free download of the drowsy driving program, “Almost Home,” at www.nrsf.org.

Here is a video that offers a solution to drowsy driving:

Image by CountyLemonade (Garrett), used under its Creative Commons license.

 

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