1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and over $12.5 billion in monetary damage in related collisions every year. These are the statistics of drowsy driving. Even more so than driving under the influence, driving while sleepy is a common occurrence. According to research gathered by Drowsydriving.org, drowsy driving crashes are a serious risk to our young people since collisions are most common in young adults with children and shift workers. Similarly, data released by the AAA Foundation showed that while 96% of Americans feel that it is unacceptable for someone to drive when they are sleepy, over 60 percent of people admit to having done so recently.
So why is it, that so many are dying from collisions caused by drowsy driving? Studies say it all boils down to lack of information on the matter. Similarly, avoiding these types of crashes can be accomplished through education, training, and reporting.
Know the Warning Signs
Sleep deprivation, or the condition of not having enough sleep, is the number one cause of drowsy driving. According to a study by the AAA Foundation, “people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in such a crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more, while people sleeping less than 5 hours increased their risk four to five times.”
Unlike alcohol-related crashes, the reporting for sleep deprived driving collisions are surprisingly lax. Similarly, campaigns aimed at warning drivers about driving under the influence or distracted driving just don’t exist for drowsy driving. Many drivers are naively oblivious to the fact that driving while tired could end disastrously.
As CEO of the National Sleep Foundation explains, “People know that they shouldn’t text or drink when they drive, however, many don’t realize that driving while drowsy is also very dangerous.”
In order to prevent a crash, it’s important that drivers know the warning signs related to drowsy driving. The following warning signs indicate that it’s time to stop driving and find a safe place to pull over and address your condition:
Heavy eyelids and constant yawning
Daydreaming while driving
Trouble keeping your head up
Drifting from your lane, swerving
Missing exits or traffic signs
Gaps in time while driving
Avoiding Driving Collisions
Carwise suggests several ways to combat drowsy driving. Number one, make sure you get an adequate amount of sleep before driving. This is especially true when preparing for a long drive or one that happens overnight. If someone else is available to drive, make the switch.
With that being said, also try limiting driving between the hours of midnight and six a.m. since these are peak times for drowsy driving accidents.
If you can stop, do it. Just don’t be in such a rush to get to your destination that you put yourself, your passengers, and other drivers at risk.
Finally, if you find yourself without enough sleep and can’t avoid driving, take a short 15 to 30-minute nap. Combine this with a caffeine-rich beverage such as a cup of coffee, never alcohol, but only as a temporary fix.