Nearly 2 years ago, the National Sleep Foundation published a survey on “Drowsy Driving.” This information, despite being a year and a half old, is just as important today as when it was first released. Please take a moment to read this report as its relevance is timeless.
WASHINGTON, DC, November 8, 2010, Today kicks off Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, a National Sleep Foundation public awareness campaign to educate drivers about sleep safety. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a new study showing that the tragedy of drowsy driving is more pervasive than shown in previous estimates. Their study shows that drowsy driving involves about one in eight deadly crashes; one in ten crashes resulting in occupant hospitalization, and one in twenty crashes in which a vehicle was towed. 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.
“This should be a wake up call to our legislators and our elected representatives,” says David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “Driving while drowsy seriously affects our safety on the road. More action and education are needed to combat this problem.” Dr. Ronald A. Popper, Medical Director of the Southern California Pulmonary and Sleep Disorders Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, CA. states that “more than 25% of the patients evaluated at our center for excessive daytime sleepiness have admitted to either having had an accident or nearly had a motor vehicle accident within the past year” and about “5% of the patients admit that this is what ultimately prompted their seeking medical attention”.
According to the Foundation's 2009 Sleep in America poll, about one-third (28%) of Americans admitted that they have fallen asleep behind the wheel within the past year, and more than half (54%) said they have driven while drowsy. The AAA Foundation study shows that more than a quarter of surveyed adults admitted they drove despite being so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open in the previous month.
“It is shocking that so many people admit that they frequently drive in an incapacitated state,” says Cloud. “The good news is that fatigue related crashes are preventable. The bad news is that there is a knowledge and awareness gap about the danger of driving when you're too sleepy. Many people think they can will themselves to stay awake no matter how tired they are, but science shows us that simply isn't true.” Dr. Popper states that “while most people understand the risks of driving while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, they don't seem to understand that they may be just as impaired while driving drowsy”.
Sleepiness can impair drivers by causing slower reaction times, vision impairment, lapses in judgment and delays in processing information. In fact, studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, the legal limit in all states. It is also possible to fall into a 3-4 second microsleep without realizing it.
“Drowsy driving is a major traffic safety problem that, unfortunately, is largely unrecognized,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. “We need to change the culture so that drivers recognize the dangers, appreciate the consequences and most importantly, stop driving while sleepy.”
The following warning signs indicate that it's time to stop driving and find a safe place to pull over and address your condition: