Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (November 6-12) just wrapped up and the campaign reached out to many people during the six days it went on this year. While this program is mainly meant to educate younger drivers, all motorist can benefit from greater awareness of the dangers of driving while drowsy.
We all know about the dangers of driving while intoxicated and distracted driving, but drowsy driving doesn’t make it on the docket for many driver’s safety programs. That’s why this particular campaign is important, it’s the only one of its kind and it brings this dangerous scenario to light.
Highlights for Driver Awareness
- Being awake for more than 20 hours hinders drivers the same way having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 does — which is the legal limit in most states.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), estimates that 100,000 crashes are caused annual by drowsy driving.
- Of the accidents caused by drowsy driving, over 1,550 of those result in death and 400,000 result in injury.
- Annually, drowsy driving costs 12.5 billion dollars in damage and loss.
- Males between the ages of 16-25, people who work night shifts & long shifts, commercial drivers, business travelers, and people with sleep disorders are at the highest risk of a causing a drowsy driving related accident.
- The National Sleep Foundation reports that 60% of American drivers routinely operate a vehicle while feeling drowsy and 37% admit to have actually fallen asleep behind the wheel.
Preventing Drowsy Driving Accidents
Vehicle safety features are actually starting to incorporate technology that will protect others on the road from a driver who is falling asleep behind the wheel. Beyond the common safety features, automakers like Toyota are working on technologies like pre-collision avoidance systems that will scan the road for objects entering the driver’s path and make maneuvers to avoid hitting it. This technology is said to include features like alarms and the use of braking & steering to keep from hitting other cars as well as pedestrians — when this comes to fruition, it could possibly save thousands of people from falling victim of a drowsy driving accident.
Until then, it will be up to drivers to make better decisions about when it’s appropriate to get behind the wheel. Most people feel like they’re fine to drive when they’re not (the same thing can be said about drunk drivers), especially when they’re sleepy and their judgement is clouded.
If you experience some of the signs/events, or notice a driver who is, stopping for a break is the only way to make it home safely:
- Heavy eyelids, frequent blinking, and/or difficulty focusing
- Daydreaming and disconnected thoughts
- Difficulty recalling the last few miles of the trip & disorientation about location and driving conditions
- Frequent awing and rubbing of the eyes
- Troubling keep your head up
- Drifting into other lanes or unintentional tailgating
Even a short break from driving or a nap can help to combat the symptoms of driver’s fatigue, risking it and deciding to go ahead and push through the trip is gambling with your life.