Being Safe: 6 Facts About Drowsy Driving You Didn’t Know
From the moment we get our driving permit, we are warned about the dangers of driving drunk. How it can wreck our lives and the lives around us in mere seconds, but is completely preventable. However not as much attention is given to driving while drowsy which also has serious implications. You are putting your life and the lives of others at just as much risk when you drive on little sleep as you do when driving buzzed or drunk.
Here are some important facts about drowsy driving that you might have not known:
It happens more than you think
According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 37% (103 million) of people driving on the roads in America have fallen asleep at the wheel and about eleven million of them have had an accident or an almost accident because they were too tired to drive safely. Did you know that more than 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries could be prevented if drivers didn’t drive drowsy? This is completely preventable if you take proper care of yourself.
Know your risks
Men and women between the ages of 18 and 29 are more likely to drive drowsy with men having an almost double risk as women. Adults with children and shift workers are also more likely to drive when sleep deprived. As young men and women, we tend to feel invincible that we got everything under control, but it is important to realize that sleep deprivation only gets worse the longer it goes on. Eventually it is going to catch up to you and you don’t want to be in the car driving when it does.
Dangerous as drunk driving
No one can deny the serious of drunk driving, but many people still shrug off being tired when getting behind the wheel. Fatigue can cause the same impairment to your senses and reflexes as alcohol or drugs can. A French study by Nicholas Moore, a researcher at the Centre Hospitalo-Universitare de Bordeaux in France, found that drivers who were either too drunk or sleepy were more likely to be responsible for a vehicle accident than drivers who were well-rested or sober. And the stakes are high when you cause an accident. Besides the injuries you and others involved in the crash might face, you might be go to jail or be sued for the damages you caused. Your actions always have consequences.
Pay attention to the signs
No one intentionally drives drowsy, but often times we don’t realize how tired we are until it is too late. No matter what work and family obligations are pushing you to get back behind the wheel even when you shouldn’t, you need to listen to your body. Here are some signs that you may need to pull over and get some rest:
- Lots of yawning
- Turning up the music real loud to keep awake
- Drifting between lanes on the road
- Missing traffic lights and stop signs
- Having trouble keeping your eyes open and focusing
- You don’t know where you are
Stop as soon as it is safe to
How many times have you found yourself in a similar situation and decided to soldier on until you got to your destination? You just say to yourself, I just need to get home or into the office and then I will be okay. By doing this you are taking an unneeded risk. Instead pull over as soon as it is safe to. If you can, stop at a store or a restaurant where you can get food and drink. Get out of the car to stretch and try to drink some water to wake up. Eating some protein like a handful of almonds can also get your blood sugar going. If you can, pull over someone where it is safe to take a little nap before getting into traffic again. Sometimes a power nap will give you enough of a boost to get you safely to your destination. When you get back in the car, keeping the windows open for some fresh air can also be helpful as well. The immediate goal is to become as alert as possible before you get back on the road, but afterwards you still need to deal with the root of the problem: sleep deprivation.
Get a good night’s sleep
There is no getting around it. We need 7 to 8 hours a sleep a night to stay healthy and to perform with all our pistons firing properly. While this can be difficult if you work shift work or have really young children at home, it is an essential truth. You may think you are getting along fine with only 4 to 5 hours of sleep, but it is gradually having a toll of your body. Sleep deficit builds up and can impact you when you least expect it and drowsy driving not only affects us but those around us as well. We become irritable, hard to deal with and put ourselves and loved ones in potentially dangerous situations like driving the car when we are too sleepy to focus on the road ahead.
To get the best night sleep possible, set a definite time to be in bed every night and make your room as conducive to sleep as much as possible. Make sure there are not bright light and keep all electronics out of the bedroom and make sure you have a comfortable mattress to sleep on. Mattresses usually last about 10 years so if you have an older mattress and find yourself tossing and turning a lot and waking up unrefreshed then it might be time for a new mattress. Talk to a mattress expert today. Sometimes gradually setting your bedtime back can help if you have trouble falling asleep when you get into bed. Any type of bedtime rituals can signal to your body that it is time to sleep. If you think something deeper is going on than just an uncomfortable bed, see your physician about possible medical problems for your sleep issues. Don’t keep ignoring it. Get help now.