Nodding Off Behind the Wheel Is All Too Common
We often think of impaired driving in connection with alcohol or drugs. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that every year, tens of thousands of the accidents due to impaired driving are cases of drowsy driving. It’s a big problem.
Fatal Sleep Deprivation Leads to Auto Accidents
The National Center for Biotechnology Information estimates that “50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity.”
Many people admit to driving even when they know they’re drifting toward dreamland. The National Safety Council reports that a fifth of those surveyed admits to falling asleep behind the wheel within the past year; 40 percent to doing so “at least once in their driving careers.” The American Automobile Association estimates that, on average, 328,000 crashes involving a sleepy driver occur each year, resulting in an average of about 6,400 fatalities.
A few states are getting extra help to combat the problem. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and The National Road Safety Foundation recently distributed a third year of grants to help states educate drivers on just how deadly driving is when you are sleepy. As GHSA stresses, lack of sleep impairs your judgment and your ability to react and increases lapses in attention, all of which can only make an auto accident more likely. It’s not just government officials who are sounding the alarm; a major hotel chain, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, has also launched a campaign to alert the public about the dangers of drowsy driving.
Sleepy in Colorado
At its safemotorist.com website, the American Safety Council observes that the Centennial State is among the deadliest states when it comes to driving drowsy. “Colorado, along with Texas and Maine, had the sixth-highest percentage of fatal drowsy driving accidents in the country. Wyoming led the nation with 13 percent.” Sleepjunkie.org adds that three of the deadliest interstates cross Colorado’s borders; and that among the 50 states, Colorado has the third-highest percentage of deaths attributable to drowsy driving.
Most people think they’re okay to drive after getting only a few hours of sleep. But weariness matters. Studies show that having been awake for the last 20 hours can be as debilitating as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%–the threshold for being legally drunk.
What are the warning signs that you are too sleepy to drive?
- You repeatedly yawn or rub your eyes.
- You wander in and out of your traffic lane.
- You have trouble maintaining the speed of your vehicle.
- You find yourself resorting to desperate stratagems to stay awake, like playing the radio loudly or opening the window.
If you find yourself feeling sleepy while driving, pull over to a safe spot and get some rest. If you know you have a long trip ahead of you the next day, get a full night’s sleep. That means seven or more hours.