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Drew: Dangers of Drowsy Driving

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

Drowsy driving is a serious and dangerous matter. According to the American Sleep Foundation, approximately half of American drivers admit to consistently getting behind the wheel while feeling drowsy. Drowsy drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a car crash; 18 to 29-year-olds are more likely to drive drowsy; men at a rate of 56 percent to women’s 45 percent are more likely to drive while drowsy.

Approximately 20 percent of U.S. drivers admit to actually falling asleep while driving. At least one fourth of Americans say they know someone who has fallen asleep while driving. The Governors Highway Safety Association’s report stated that in 2015, an estimated 5,000 people died in crashes involving a drowsy driver. These figures provide you a glimpse to how prevalent and dangerous this is in America.

So, the question becomes have you, a friend or a love one ever driven while drowsy? Have you, a friend or love one ever fallen asleep while driving? If the answer is yes to either one or both, then you need to review these safety prevention tips. Yours and/or someone else’s life may depend on it!

Facts you should know about the effects of drowsy driving. Driving while drowsy is like driving under the influence of alcohol. The driver’s reaction time is slower, awareness to hazards and ability to sustain attention are all worsened when drowsy. Driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent which is the U.S. legal limit.

These are some warning signs, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, if you’re too tired to drive:

  • Frequent yawning and difficulty keeping your eyes open
  • Nodding off or having trouble keeping your head up
  • Inability to remember driving the last few miles
  • Missing road signs and exits
  • Difficulty maintaining your speed
  • Drifting out of your lane

Let’s review some safety tips you can follow to help prevent drowsy driving. The absolute best way to avoid drowsy driving is to get an appropriate amount of sleep. Seven to nine hours of sleep nightly is recommended. If you’ve been awake for 20 hours or more, DO NOT DRIVE- it’s not safe for you or anyone else! If you feel yourself feeling sleepy, drink something with caffeine. Driving at a time when you usually are asleep is another risk factor.

Due to its prevalence, many new automotive companies’ technologies have a device to prevent the driver from driving when drowsy. It is a drowsiness alert which either buzzes the driver’s seat or other warning signals when it detects common driving drowsiness patterns. This warning device helps the driver to stay in their lane or suggests to the driver it’s time to take a break. The device should not be turned off by the driver, which I have noticed some drivers do.

Driving is a serious matter regardless of age. Where it is suggested that parents advise their children about how to Keep an Eye on Safety by not driving while drowsy, it is healthy advice for us all.