Your eyelids are drooping, your head occasionally starts to drop, but you just keep driving. You turn up the AC or roll down the windows and crank up the radio thinking that you don’t have that much further to go – just a few more miles until you reach your nice, comfy bed. The next thing you know you open your eyes and realize you are upside down in your car hanging from your seatbelt. But you should be thankful that your decision to drive while drowsy didn’t cost you your life.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently released a study in which they found that drowsy driving is involved in one in six deadly crashes. The study also found that 41% of all drivers admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point – one in ten of those surveyed said they had done so in the past year.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three populations are at the greatest risk for drowsy driving:
- – Young people (ages 16 to 29), especially males;
- – Shift workers – night shift, long or irregular hours; and
- – Individuals with untreated sleep apnea or narcolepsy.
So what can be done to address this serious problem? Parents should talk to and educate their young drivers about not driving when drowsy. If you suspect you yourself or someone you know has sleep apnea, or another sleep disorder, get checked out by a physician. (click here for symptoms of sleep apnea ). If you’re planning a long road trip, plan a rest stop every couple of hours and be sure to get plenty of sleep before starting out (at least six hours). All drivers should make every effort to drive only during times when they are normally awake, and, most importantly, get off the road if you start feeling tired.
Think about it.