The National Sleep Foundation has declared November 3-10, 2013, as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. As you think about that, consider that the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, found in an article published in 2010 that 1 out of 6 deadly traffic accidents and 1 in 8 crashes requiring hospitalization were due to drowsy driving, making drowsy driving as large a problem as drunk driving. A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60% of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37% admitted that they had fallen asleep at the wheel within the last year.
Who is at risk?
Unfortunately the population of drowsy drivers who get in auto accidents is not distributed evenly. Those most at risk for having an accident while driving drowsy are:
- Young people, especially males under age 26
- Shift workers and others with long working hours
- Commercial drivers-especially long haul drivers
- Drivers with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea
- Business travelers
How to tell if you are driving drowsy?
While the statistics show the prevalence of this problem, there are warning signs that all drivers need to be aware of, which indicate that they should pull off the road and either take a power nap, or get a good night’s sleep. The following lists a few of those warning signs:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
For more information regarding the Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, visit the website DrowsyDriving.org.