Asleep at the wheel: November 8-14 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

Don’t drink and drive. Don’t text and drive. Don’t sleep and drive.
If you think the latter goes without saying or if you think it could never happen to you, don’t be so sure. In Asleep At the Wheel, Evelyn Kanter documents the scope of the problem: “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsiness or fatigue is the principal cause of up to 100,000 police-reported passenger vehicle crashes every year, killing at least 1,500 people and injuring 71,000. Many more fatigue-related crashes go unreported. But don’t blame it on the long-haul truckers: Less than 1 percent of all sleep-related crashes involve truck drivers, who are prohibited, by federal regulation, from driving more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period.”
Next week is dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of fatigue and driving, particularly among teens. If you’re a parent, an educator, or an employer, check out the Drowsy Driving Prevention Resource Center and Toolkit which was created by the National Sleep Foundation. It includes event ideas, bilingual fact sheets, and materials.
The folks at point out high risk situations:
Special at-risk groups for drowsy driving include young people, shift workers, commercial drivers, people with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders, and business travelers. However, any driver can experience fatigue at one time or another. Your risk for drowsy driving increases if you are:
–Sleep deprived or fatigued
–Driving long distances without proper rest breaks
–Driving through the night or mid-afternoon
–Working more than 60 hours per week
–Working more than 1 job and your main job involves shift work
–Drinking even small amounts of alcohol
–Driving alone or on a long, rural, dark or boring road
–Taking sedating medications such as cold tablets, antihistamines or antidepressants
–Experiencing jet lag or reduced sleep as a result of traveling across many time zones
They offer these safety and prevention tips:
Before a trip, do the following to reduce your risk:
–Get enough sleep—most adults need 7-9 hours, and most teens need 8.5-9.5 hours, to maintain proper alertness during the day.
–Schedule proper breaks, about every 100 miles or 2 hours during long trips.
–Arrange for a travel companion—someone to talk with and share the driving.
–Avoid alcohol and sedating medications—check your labels or ask your doctor.
Countermeasures to prevent a fall-asleep crash while driving
–Watch for the warning signs of fatigue.
–Stop driving—pull off at the next exit or rest area, or find a place to sleep for the night.
–Take a nap—find a safe place to take a 15-20 minute nap (more than 20 minutes can make you groggy for 15 minutes or more after waking).
–Consume caffeine–the equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours, and usually takes about 30 minutes to enter the bloodstream. Caffeine is available in various forms (coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chewing gum, tablets), and in various amounts. For example, the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee (about 135 mg) is about the same as 2-3 cups of tea or 3-4 cans of regular or diet cola.
–Try consuming caffeine before taking a short nap to get the benefits of both.
–Let a passenger take over the diving.

Posted in Safety