You’re Getting Sleepy…PULL OVER!

I came across an article in The Westerly Sun regarding drowsy driving and just how dangerous it is on our roadways. Drowsy driving has been described as being as hazardous as driving under the influence. While the NTSB claims that just 1%-2% of all motor vehicles crashes are a result of drowsy driving, AAA’s studies have shown that number to be 8.8% – 9.5% (10.6+% of crashes with significant injury, property damage and/or airbag deployment).

The AAA study used ~3,600 drivers from six different locations in the US and had their driving and in-vehicle behaviors monitored by cameras and other data collection equipment for a few months between October 2010 – December 2013. The PERCLOS method (PERcentage eye CLOSure) was used to detect drowsiness within certain time spans before accidents. The report is very detailed and a little dry, so I would re-hash here, but if you would like to read it, click HERE or check out this video from CBS This Morning.

Suffice to say, drowsy driving is extremely dangerous and we all need to be aware of the dangers, signs and ways to combat it. So what do we need to know?

  1. First and foremost is to get enough sleep. The CDC says that adults need a minimum of seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. So put down those smart devices and turn off the tv for an hour before you lay your head on your pillow. This will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
  2. Know the signs that you are “drowsy” driving: trouble keeping your eyes open; drifting within or between lanes; excessive yawning; daydreaming or wandering thoughts; feeling restless or irritable; not remembering the last few miles of your drive. If any of these happen, PULL OVER and rest or switch drivers.
  3. If you are going on a long car trip, plan to stop to rest and stretch about every 100 miles or two hours. Get a good night’s sleep before heading out. And if you have a co-driver, switch before you get tired or start swerving around and hit that rumble strip a few times.
  4. If you start feeling drowsy, find a safe rest stop and take a nap. A 20-minute power nap can reenergize you and allow you to continue your drive safely. *Never pull over on the side of the road, this is a hazard to you and other vehicles and is illegal.
  5. Avoid driving between midnight and 6 a.m. as this is your body’s natural time to sleep and you will likely be the sleepiest. (Subject to your normal schedule. Reverse if you work third shift).
  6. Let in the fresh air! Being shut up in a closed car can increase CO2 levels and make you drowsy, a rush fresh air will refresh you.
  7. Chew gum or listen to upbeat music, or both.
  8. Be aware of any medications that you may be taking that cause drowsiness and avoid driving while taking them.
  9. Never mix medication and alcohol and drive, not even one drink.
  10. Caffeinated beverages may help in the short term, but do not rely on them to get our through a non-stop 12-hour drive…rest is best.

So there we have it, drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving and with a few steps you can have safe and fun highway adventures.

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