Have you ever been out after a few drinks and then start to get that feeling? You know what I’m talking about? You’re a little disoriented and a little dizzy so you, of course, call a cab to take you home because you would never drink and drive, right? Well, keep the meter running because you might need that cab to take you to work in the morning.
Sleepiness causes accidents and anyone behind the wheel without optimal rest is putting themselves -- and others -- in danger, and it can be just as fatal as drinking and driving.
Drunk Vs. DrowsyDrinking and driving is a known danger, but did you know that driving while tired is on par with drunk driving? Driving drowsy is a problem. Most of us work late, sleep less, chug a cup of coffee in the morning and get in our cars and drive to work. We underestimate the dangers of this routine.
Sleepless nights have the same effect on us as a night at the bar. Driving sleep deprived is just as reckless as driving under the influence. So how is being sleepy similar to being drunk? Driving drowsy slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs vision and hand-eye coordination, and impairs judgment, which increases the risk of crashing. So is driving drowsy the same as driving drunk? Yes.
The difference? Not everyone drinks, but we all have the potential to be drowsy and get in the car and drive.
The Risk On The RoadAccording to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adults have admitted to driving drowsy and 37 percent of people have actually confessed to falling asleep behind the wheel.
Many of us are worn out -- worn out from work, kids, school, etc. -- but we continue to get behind the wheel without even thinking of the possible dangers of this.
Think of all the times you were driving sleepy to work and suddenly thought, “How did I get here?” That inattentiveness can be attributed to fatigue.
Sleepiness while driving comes in many forms: Not slamming on your breaks in time when the car in front of you stops, running a red light, crossing over into the other lane -- sleepiness adds another risk on the road.
Sound scary? It should. Driving while sleepy is a risk for you, your passengers and other drivers on the road.
What’s Your Risk?Sleep is a neurobiological need and our bodies, no pun intended, will crash when needed. The AAA Foundation found that fatigue is a factor of 17 percent of the road deaths and 13 percent of crashes result in hospitalization, and that is believed to be an underreported number.
Drowsy driving crashes result in at least 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses annually according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The risks of sleepiness causing an accident includes:
- Adults between 18-29 report driving fatigued more often
- Adults with children in the household are more likely to drive drowsy
- Adults getting six to seven hours of sleep a night are twice as likely to get into a crash, and people sleeping less than five hours are four times as likely to have an accident as opposed to those who get eight hours of sleep a night
- Sleepless nights -- being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and being awake 24 hours is the same as having a BAC of .10 (.08 is considered legally drunk)
Driving drowsy imposes many other risks, too, like jail time or settlements awarded to victims who may have been injured due to your drowsy driving.
Sleepiness And Road Rage
Not only does driving while tired slow your reaction time and decrease awareness, but being sleepy also makes you more irritable. It’s no joke when people say “don’t talk to me before my morning coffee.” Generally, you’re probably not a pleasant person in the morning and this transfers to your driving.
You’re tired, your kids didn’t like their breakfast this morning, you’re running 10 minutes behind and now someone just cut you off. You immediately slam your fist on your horn, taking your attention and other drivers’ attention away from the road. Road rage can lead to bad judgment calls and inattentiveness to the road, which makes it more likely for you to get into an accident. Getting enough sleep helps us stay calm, makes us less irritable and it really helps us not sweat the small things, such as a 16-year-old driving 60 mph in a 40.
It’s simple math, really: Sleepiness equals irritability which equals road rage.
Are You Too Tired?You may be too tired to drive if:
- The inability to recall the last few miles traveled
- Wandering and disconnecting thoughts
- Have difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open
- Feeling like your head is very heavy
- Yawning repeatedly
- Accidentally tailgating other vehicles
- Missing traffic signs
If you thought to any of these, “yep, that was me this morning,” then you are too tired to drive.
So, What’s The Solution?
The solution here is simple -- sleep more! Eight hours of sleep isn't just for kids; kids can’t even drive … the eight hours are for you, the adults who drive. Sleep more and drive safer. If you wouldn’t risk drunk driving than you shouldn’t risk driving drowsy. Driving while fatigued puts you at a higher risk of having an accident. However, eight hours of healthy sleep a night can change that. The solution is simple.
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Copel, Larry. "Study: Sleepiness a Factor in 17% of Road Deaths." USA Today. Gannett, 23 Nov. 2010. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.
"Asleep Behind The Wheel - Preventing Drowsy Driving." The Sleep Wellness Institute. The Sleep Wellness Institute Inc., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.
"One-in-Four Drivers Report Struggling to Stay Awake While Behind the Wheel | AAA NewsRoom." AAA NewsRoom. The American Automobile Association, 04 Dec. 2013. Web. 15 Sept. 201
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