If you’ve ever worked the late shift or tried to make a 10-hour vacation drive, you probably know the dangers of drowsy driving. You could even be among those who dozed off at the wheel and woke up on the wrong side of the road as motorists whizzed by.
On the heels of Daylight Savings Time, when Americans turned their clocks forward and lost an hour of sleep, the danger of drowsy driving became even more prevalent, according to experts, making the nation’s roads more prone to car crashes.
Drowsy driving is more common than you might think.
Driver fatigue is believed to be the cause of 100,000 crashes annually, leading to 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries with a total cost of $12.5 billion, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But the National Sleep Foundation considers those to be conservative figures because it’s hard to track crashes caused by drowsiness. A “Breathalyzer” can’t detect drowsiness, and police aren’t trained to identify it.
Americans are more likely to suffer drowsiness this time of year when they spring forward, simply because it’s hard for our bodies to adjust. About 47 million people say they don’t get enough sleep, according to a Huffington Post article, and 43 percent of the nation is sleep-deprived during the week.
Turning clocks ahead creates same response as jet lag in people’s bodies, according to one expert, who notes that a person’s internal clock works on a 24-hour schedule that is “suddenly confused” when clocks are moved ahead one hour. In fact, a 1996 study saw car crashes increase the Monday following Daylight Savings Time, along with a jump in fatal and alcohol-related wrecks, the article notes.
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, some 168 million people, 60 percent of adult motorists, have driven while drowsy.
To avoid drowsy driving, follow these suggestions by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Plan to get plenty of sleep.
- Don’t drink alcohol when you’re sleepy, even in small amounts.
- Limit the amount of driving you do between midnight and 6 a.m. – even if you are rested, the other drivers on the road at these times may not be.
- If you start to feel drowsy, pull over at a safe location and let someone else drive, or stop at a rest area or store.
- If you’re tired, pull into a rest area or a gas station and take a short nap, about 15 to 20 minutes, and drink a cup of coffee.
After springing ahead, make certain you can enjoy the extra sunshine and arrive safely at your destination.