We are a nation of sleep-deprived individuals. There just isn’t enough time to get everything done, and that can be dangerous. Studies show that adults need at least seven hours of sleep a night. On a regular basis, even one hour less sleep per day can affect your ability to drive safely.
Federal data shows that drowsy driving causes about 56,000 car crashes a year. These crashes result in about 40,000 auto wreck injuries and 1,550 car crash fatalities. However, it is believed that these numbers are an underestimate.
Anyone may experience drowsy driving from time to time. However, some groups of people are at higher risk for drowsy driving than others. Groups who are the most likely to drive while drowsy include:
• Shift workers
• People who suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy
• People taking medications such as Valium, Benadryl and Nyquil.
• Young men between the ages of 16 and 29 with irregular sleep patterns and those who drive long distances at night.
Anyone who is sleep deprived may become a drowsy driver. Those who drive between midnight and 6 a.m. or drive for long stretches with no break or who repeat the same route day after day are also at risk of drowsy driving. For the elderly, mid afternoon may be a difficult time to drive.
Drowsy driving accidents often show the following characteristics:
• The accident occurs late at night, early in the morning or mid afternoon.
• The accident is serious.
• The crash occurred on a high-speed road or freeway with a speed limit of 55 to 65 m.p.h.
• A single vehicle is involved.
• The vehicle leaves the roadway and crashes into another object.
• The driver’s eyes are closed.
• The driver does not try to prevent the accident.
If you are driving and experience any of the following warning signs, stop and take a break. A short nap or two cups of coffee can save your life.
Warning signs of drowsy driving:
• You can’t stop yawning.
• You are having trouble keeping your eyes focused and open, especially at lights.
• Your mind wanders or your thoughts are disconnected and wander.
• You blank out and can’t remember driving the last few miles.
• You drive sloppily: weave through traffic, tailgate or miss signals.
• You find yourself hitting the grooved strip on the edge of the road.
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