Although drinking while driving is a very serious and well-known problem, another deadly habit is proving to be even more widespread: drowsy driving. In 2014, over 33 percent of all U.S. drivers fell asleep behind the wheel of a car. There are 42 drowsy drivers for every drunk driver on the road today. These drowsy and impaired drivers present a major threat to driver safety.
Drowsy driving is operating a motor vehicle while being cognitively impaired by lack of sleep. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers who get less than six hours of sleep are more likely to pay less attention to the road, react more slowly when forced to brake suddenly, and make bad driving decisions that may lead to an accident.
Who are Drowsy Drivers?
According to data compiled by the National Sleep Foundation, drowsy drivers are everywhere. As many as 35% of Americans report their sleep quality as being poor or only fair. Drowsy driving especially affects:
- Young adults age 18-29, who are much more likely to drive drowsy than other age groups (71 percent as compared to 52 percent of 30-64 year-olds and 19 percent of motorists age 65 or older).
- Men, who are 56 percent more likely than women to drive drowsy than women, at 45 percent.
Motorists who are the most likely to be driving on low levels of sleep include commercial drivers, including tow truck operators, truckers, and bus drivers, as well as shift workers, those suffering from untreated sleep disorders, and motorists who drive while taking sleep-inducing medications.
Drowsy drivers are likely to be involved in automobile accidents, whether going off the road or colliding with other vehicles, pedestrians, or animals, and trucking accidents. Here are some tips to avoid accidents and other dangers which can result from the lack of attention and slow reactions caused by drowsiness.
Preventing Drowsy Driving
One of the best ways to help prevent drowsy driving is to plan ahead by:
- Taking an afternoon nap before driving late at night.
- Have some caffeine and then wait 30 minutes for it to take full effect before driving.
- Switch drivers if someone more alert is traveling with you.
When you’re feeling drowsy, consider simply pulling over to take a 20-minute nap. Walking around in the fresh air for a few minutes will help you wake up fully before getting behind the wheel again.
Do your part to ensure that you are not one of these impaired drivers by following these steps.