When you drive, you take responsibility for your safety and the safety of others on the road. According to recent surveys, more than half of American drivers have driven while drowsy and 20-30% have fallen asleep at the wheel. Many also report that when drowsy, they drive faster, lose patience and become stressed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates taht 100,000 crashes each year are caused by sleepy drivers, resulting in more than 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries.
Studies reveal that many people do not know how sleepy they are. Driving requires a set of skills that are significantly reduced when you are sleep deprived. This reduced ability to drive can make a difference – in whether you avoid or cause a crash. Drowsiness can cause:
- Slower reaction time
- Impaired judgment and vision
- Decline in attention to important signs, road changes and the actions of other vehicles
- Decreased alertness, preventing you from seeing an obstacle and avoiding a crash, especially when driving in the dark or for a long period of time.
- Increased moodiness and aggressive behavior
Preventing a Fall-Asleep Crash
If you become drowsy while driving, recognize that you are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel and pull over.
- Depend on the radio, an open window, a change in the temperature in your vehicle or other “tricks” to keep awake. These do not work
- Stop driving.
- Find a safe place to stop for a break or for the night.
- Pull off inot a safe, well-lighted area away from traffic and take a brief nap: 15-20 minutes is best
- Drink coffee or other type of caffeine drink to promote short-term alertness if needed. (It takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream).
- Get off the road if you hit shoulder rumble strips. These are deep grooves that are placed on high speed roads to alert you when you are leaving the road.
If you are experiencing frequent daytime sleepiness, have difficulty sleeping at night or suspect you have a sleep disorder, contact Northern Lights Clinic’s team of specialists to be scheduled for a sleep study.