Do you work long shifts, drive a lengthy commute to work, and have trouble sleeping because of a new baby in the house? If so, you’re susceptible to falling asleep at the wheel and causing an accident. The national focus is on drunk driving anddistracted driving, but drowsy driving is a serious problem that also deserves attention.
60 percent of adult American drivers—or 168 million people—say they have driven drowsy at least once during the past year.
More than one-third of drowsy drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel, and 13 percent of these people say they do so at least once a month.
4 percent of drivers admit that their dozing off caused or nearly caused an accident.
23 percent of American adults know someone who caused a crash because they fell asleep at the wheel.
Inconsistencies of Reporting Drowsy Driving
Conservative estimates state that at least 100,000 car crashes per year in the US are the direct result of driver fatigue. These accidents cause about 1,500 deaths, more than 70,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in economic losses.
However, these figures might just be the tip of the iceberg. After all, of the three D’s, only drunk driving and distracted driving have consistent reporting practices. There’s no test to determine driver sleepiness and little to no police training for identifying drowsy driving as the crash factor. Self-reporting is unreliable, and Missouri and Wisconsin don’t even list “fatigue” as an option on crash report forms.
According to data from several European nations with more consistent crash reporting procedures, drowsy driving represents 10 to 30 percent of all crashes.
Combating Drowsy Driving
We’re all at risk of driving drowsy, but some demographics are more likely than others to fall asleep at the wheel. If you are a young adult male, a parent, and/or employed as an overnight shift worker, your risk is higher than the general public. Regardless of how high or low your personal risk is, follow these tips to combat drowsy driving and stay safe on the road:
Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation increases the risk of fatigue-related crashes.According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who get six to seven hours of sleep are two times more likely to be involved in a crash than those who sleep eight hours or more. People who sleep less than five hours per night increase their risk by four to five times.
Sing along with the music: If you feel yourself starting to nod off, play upbeat music and sing along with the lyrics.
Drink caffeine: The stimulating effects of a cup of coffee or energy drink can help you stay awake on your long drive to work early in the morning. Just remember that the effects are temporary.
Pull over and take a nap: Only one in five drivers say they pull over to rest if they’re feeling drowsy behind the wheel, and older adults are more likely to do this than younger drivers. While this probably isn’t an option when you’re on your way to work, remember this tip the next time you feel drowsy on a road trip.
Chat with a passenger: Driving with another person gives you more options for combating drowsy driving. The first is to strike up a conversation with your passenger. By discussing your day or telling stories, you keep yourself mentally stimulated so you can stay awake.
Trade drivers: Assuming your passenger is capable, ask if he or she would be willing to take over for you. When it’s safe to do so, pull over and trade drivers so you can get some shut-eye.