The Deadly Cost of Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving is a dangerous and far too common habit. According to the CDC, one in 25 drivers reports falling asleep while driving within the past month. This dangerous practice can quickly turn deadly for drivers, passengers, and others on the road.
This guest post is brought to us from the folks at Tuck.com. The Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.
The Impact of Drowsy Driving Accidents
Drowsy driving is a factor in 6 percent of crashes annually. Each year, that adds up to approximately 328,000 crashes. Of those crashes, approximately 109,000 involve injuries and 6,400 involve fatalities.
In addition to injuries and fatalities, drowsy driving is behind billions in societal costs each year. Annually, drowsy driving costs $190 billion in societal costs, which does not include property damage. Societal costs include lost productivity, emergency services, insurance administration, and medical and legal services.
Why Drowsy Driving is so Dangerous
Drowsy driving is particularly dangerous because it can sneak up on any driver. Although commercial drivers, drivers who do shift work, and drivers who take medications that cause drowsiness or have undiagnosed sleep disorders are most at risk of drowsy driving, anyone who isn’t getting enough sleep can become a drowsy driver.
Falling asleep at the wheel is the most dangerous effect of drowsy driving, however, driving when you’re too sleepy to do so can still be dangerous. When you’re too sleepy to drive, your ability to pay attention to the road suffers, your reaction time is slower, and your ability to make good decisions is affected. That means if you have to quickly decide and react to avoid a car or take a sharp turn, you may not be alert enough to do so safely.
If You’re Too Sleepy to Drive
It’s important to know the signs of drowsy driving, so if you find yourself driving when you’re too tired, you can stop and rest before the situation becomes dangerous. The warning signs of drowsy driving include:
- Nodding your head
- Missing your exit
- Hitting a rumble strip
- Trouble concentrating on the road
- Yawning or blinking frequently
- Forgetting the last few miles
If you’re showing any of these signs and suspect you’re too sleepy to drive, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. You can change drivers, stop for the night at a hotel, or take a quick nap. Pulling over to stretch or drink coffee can be effective, but only temporarily. Turning up the radio or opening a window isn’t effective. Rest is the best way to get back on the road safely.
How to Avoid Drowsy Driving
Getting a good night’s sleep is the best way to avoid drowsy driving. Follow these tips to be aware of and prevent drowsy driving.
- Sleep at least seven to seven and a half hours each night, especially before long road trips.
- Create a healthy sleep environment that’s cool, dark, quiet, and has comfortable bedding.
- Be aware of medication side effects.
- Get treatment for sleep disorders.
- Practice good sleep hygiene, including a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
- Be honest with yourself and avoid driving if you feel too tired.