Falling Asleep at the Wheel Can Have Deadly Consequences
We’ve no doubt all heard the horrible dangers of drunk driving. But we don’t really hear too many reports of car crashes caused by drowsy drivers. According to several sources, drowsy driving is just as reckless as drunk driving. Both drunk and drowsy driving double your chance of being in a car accident. And drowsiness can occur from poor sleep over several nights or one terrible night’s sleep.
Dangers of Drowsy Driving
Dozing off while driving can cause you to lose control of your car, therefore, endangering yourself and others on the road. Here are some side effects of drowsy driving; see how they compare to the side effects of drunk driving.
- Slower reaction times
- Distraction from the road
- Impaired mental processing
- Delayed judgement
- Poor decision making
The National Sleep Foundation conducted a survey and found some very disturbing statistics regarding drowsy driving.
- 60% of adults drove drowsy in the last year.
- 1 out 3 admitted to driving drowsy in the last month.
- A whopping 37% confessed to dozing off at the wheel.
Unfortunately, the number of car crashes related to driving drowsy are conservative because there is no definitive way to measure the sleepiness of the driver. And you don’t even have to extremely sleep deprived to be a victim. Moderate sleep deprivation, such as 6-7 hours a night, can put a driver risk.
In addition, an Australian study found that being awake for 18 hours is equivalent to having a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .05. That’s like having two drinks if you weigh 150 pounds. Also, being awake for 24 hours is comparable to having a BAC of .10, now we’re up to 4 drinks if you’re still 150 pounds, which is above the legal limit of .08.
Who is Most Likely At Risk?
Those with sleep disorders are incredibly at risk for driving drowsy. Also, anyone who works abnormal shift work is at risk. Their schedules go against their circadian rhythm and they work during hours when they should be sleeping. People with sleep apnea are 5 times more likely to be involved in a car accident because of drowsiness than a healthy individual. Driving drowsy is most common among young people, men, adults with children, and shift workers.
Ways to Combat Fatigued Driving
Finally, in some states, driving while sleep deprived is illegal. It varies state by state, but you shouldn’t take the risk. So here are some suggestions to keep you driving drowsy.
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. I know, easier said than done, but it’s worth it.
- If possible, take a 20-30 minute nap before you leave.
- Have a friend drive you home or take public transportation.
- Try to schedule your commute when you aren’t typically tired, for instance when you first wake up or late at night.
- If you find you’re constantly tired, consult with doctor about having a sleep study performed.
- If you do have sleep apnea, make sure you use your CPAP machine.