You’re driving on the open road when all of a sudden you feel your eyes starting to droop. You shake it off and let out a big yawn. As you continue driving, your lids start to get heavier by the minute and you have trouble keeping your eyes focused on the road. You start to drift off when all of a sudden you hear the loud noise of the rumble strips. You veer back into your lane and continue driving, a little more alert to your settings now.
Does this scenario sound pretty familiar? It’s called drowsy driving, and you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 37 percent of drivers report falling asleep behind the wheel at some point in their lives.
You might thing that you can handle being sleepy behind the wheel, but it turns out that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. In a year, there’s an estimated 328,000 crashes that involve drowsy drivers, including 6,400 fatal crashes, according to AAA. That’s one out of five crashes involving drowsiness!
A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers who get one to two hours of sleep nearly double their risk for a crash, versus drivers who get the recommended seven hours of sleep a night. The study also found that a driver’s risk for a crash increases 1.3 times with six to seven hours of sleep; 1.9 times with five to six hours of sleep; 4.3 times with four to five hours of sleep, and 11.5 times with less than four hours of sleep.
Researchers at the Institute of Medicine estimate that over 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. In addition to sleep disorders, drowsy driving can also happen as a result of taking certain medications, alcohol consumption, not getting enough sleep at night and shift changes at work.
Sleep deprivation makes it difficult for drivers to pay attention to the road, slows down their reaction time, and can affect a driver’s ability to make decisions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People who drive commercial vehicles like tow trucks, tractor trailers and buses are more likely to drive drowsy, as well as night shift workers, states the CDC.
Signs of drowsy driving include yawning or blinking frequently; difficulties remembering the past few miles; missing exits and traffic signs; and drifting across lanes of traffic, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you notice these warning signs, pull over to a safe place as soon as possible and take a 15 to 20 minute nap or change drivers if you can.
Additionally, you can prevent drowsy driving by aiming to get seven hours of sleep a night by sticking to a set sleeping schedule, avoiding drinking alcohol or taking medications that are prone to make you tired, and talking to your doctor about treatments for a sleeping order.
*This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice.