Here are some rather frightening statistics: Two out of every five drivers, or 41 percent, admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, with one in 10 saying they’ve done so in the past year, according to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study.
“It is shocking to consider that one quarter of drivers admit to operating a vehicle in the last month in an incapacitated state,” said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation.
Yes, sleep qualifies as an incapacitated state, akin to being drunk and on drugs, when it comes to driving.
Here’s another sobering tidbit from the study, which was released this week: More than a quarter of those surveyed admitted they drove despite being so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open in the previous month.
It is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, which is hosted by the National Sleep Foundation, and AAA has gotten a lot of press in its bid to get drivers to recognize the danger of driving while sleeping, and not underestimate it’s seriousness.
“When you are behind the wheel of a car, being sleepy is very dangerous. Sleepiness decreases awareness, slows reaction time and impairs judgment, just like drugs or alcohol, contributing to the possibility of a crash,” AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger said in a press release. “We need to change the culture so that not only will drivers recognize the dangers of driving while drowsy butwill stop doing it.”
How dangerous is driving while sleepy? Very.
A new analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data estimates that about one in six (or 16.5 percent) deadlycrashes; one in eight crashes resulting in occupant hospitalization; and one in 14 crashes in which a vehicle was towed involve a driver who is drowsy.
These percentages are substantially higher than most previous estimates, suggesting that the contribution of drowsy driving to motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths has not been fully appreciated.
“Many of us tend to underestimate the negative effects associated with fatigue and sleep deprivation and, conversely, overestimate our abilities to overcome them while driving,” Kathleen Marvaso, vice president, AAA Public Affairs, said in her statement. “This data underscores the importance of educating drivers on the simple, yet effective steps they can take to prevent a possible tragedy. Unfortunately, too many drivers have adopted the ‘I’m tired, but I can make it’ mentality, often to their own peril or to the peril of others.”
The National Sleep Foundation has been championing better drowsy driving awareness and education since 1991. Cloud adds, “We applaud AAA’s work to elevate this issue for public scrutiny and action.”
Here are the AAA’ s tips for remaining alert and avoiding drowsiness:
Getting plenty of sleep (at least six hours) the night before a long trip;
Scheduling a break every two hours or every 100 miles;
Traveling at times when you are normally awake, and staying overnight rather than driving straight through; and
Stop driving if you become sleepy; someone who is tired could fall asleep at any time.
Symptoms of sleepiness include but are not limited to:
Having trouble keeping your eyes open and focused;
The inability to keep your head up;
Daydreaming or having wandering, disconnected thoughts; and
Drifting from your lane or off the road, or tailgating
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
email@example.com :: 800-992-9447 :: Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.