Drowsy driving is another form of distracted driving - drivers experiencing drowsiness do not apply their full attention to the driving task. Driving requires a person to be alert of their actions and surroundings at all times. Sleepiness and driving is a dangerous combination. Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but don’t realize that drowsy driving can be just as fatal.
Sleepiness or Fatigue Causes the Following:
- Impaired reaction time, judgment and vision
- Problems with information processing and short-term memory
- Decreased performance, vigilance and motivation
- Increased moodiness and aggressive behaviors
- Nationally, the nighttime fatal crash rate considerably exceeds the daytime rate. The fatal crash rate between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. is ten fold that of the period between 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
- In Maryland 20 percent of all fatal crashes occur between 12:00 midnight and 5:00 a.m., despite accounting for less than 4 percent of motor vehicle travel.
- In 2005, 12 people died in drowsy driving-related crashes; 573 people were injured.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America poll, 60% of adult drivers – about 168 million people say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, and more than one-third, (37% or 103 million people), have actually fallen asleep at the wheel! In fact, of those who have nodded off, 13% say they have done so at least once a month. Four percent – approximately eleven million drivers – admit they have experienced a crash or near-miss crash because they dozed off or were too tired to drive.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary loss.
According to the Sleep Services of America more than 40 million Americans complain of chronic insomnia.
Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
- Unable to stop yawning.
- Trouble keeping your eyes open and focused, especially at stoplights.
- Driving becomes sloppy and you weave between lanes, tailgate or miss traffic signals.
- Find yourself hitting the grooves or rumble strips on the side of the road.
- Find yourself opening a window or turning up the radio to stay alert.
- Driving aggressively to get to your next destination because of drowsiness.
Stay Alert and Focused
- Be aware that crashes caused by drowsy driving occur most often during the late night, early morning and mid afternoon hours.
- Plan rest stops during long distances, stop every two hours to stretch and walk briskly.
- If you become tired while driving, stop in a safe place and take a short nap to re-energize.
- Stay focused and alert at all times.
- Avoid alcohol or medication that cause drowsiness.
- Be aware that most people need eight hours of good sleep each night to feel well rested.
Persons at Risk
- Young adults, especially males.
- Shift workers are at great risk, especially if they have a rotating shift or work more than one job.
- Commercial drivers who drive a high number of miles and drive during the night are at higher risk for fall-asleep crashes.
- Persons with untreated sleep problems or disorders (insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy).
- Business travelers who spend many hours driving or may be experiencing jet lag.
- Persons who work more than 60 hours a week increase their risk by 40%.
- A regular sleep schedule will help you regulate your sleep-wake cycles and ensure you are getting the proper rest to drive alert.
- A lack of sleep has been linked to motor vehicle crashes, so avoid driving drowsy because it slows your reaction time, decreases awareness, and impairs judgment.
- Respond to symptoms of fatigue by finding a safe place to stop for a break because feeling sleepy and driving triples your chance of having a crash or destroying someone else’s life.
- Avoid over-the-counter medications and alcohol if you plan to drive.
- Sleep related medical conditions may be especially dangerous when driving.
- Young adults need eight hours of good rest to be alert while driving.