We all know that driving under the influence is dangerous, irresponsible and illegal, but what about driving while sleepy?
Fatigued driving — better known as “drowsy driving” — is more common than drunk driving and can be equally dangerous. Even if not falling soundly asleep, driving while sleepy can present a large risk as it reduces the ability to pay attention to the road, slows reaction time and adversely affects the ability to make good decisions.
Drowsy Driving Is An Epidemic
According to the CDC, an estimated 1 in 25 drivers reports having fallen asleep within the past 30 days. Estimates for the number of crashes caused by drowsy driving are harder to determine — there’s no blood panel post-crash to check for tiredness — but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2013, drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths. Overall, the number of deaths caused by drowsy driving year-over-year could be as high as 6,000.
Who Is At-Risk
Commercial drivers behind the wheel for long stretches at a time are at a higher-risk of succumbing to drowsy driving.
According to The Sleep Foundation, driving after being awake for 18 hours is as dangerous as driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.05. After 24 hours awake, reflexes and perception are equally as bad as having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. There’s a reason that commercial drivers are legally subject to the following parameters: the 14-hour day, the 11-hour driving limit and the duty limits on driving days. Unfortunately, you don’t have to be driving the entire time to become too tired to drive.
Consider this – the CDC recommends that adults get at least seven hours of sleep every night but more than a third of American adults aren’t sleeping enough. People who don’t get that recommended amount of sleep wake up to commute to work. Shift workers are specifically at-risk of drowsy driving. Even if getting enough sleep, it’s more likely to be less restful than workers who operate during daylight hours due to their circadian rhythms.
Even if taking a prescription, there are many common medications that can cause drowsiness, including antidepressants, antihistamines, muscle relaxants, medication for high blood pressure and anxiety.
Is A Cup Of Coffee The Hero Of This Story?
The most logical answer seems to be coffee but it’s not a replacement for sleep as it can make a person feel exhausted when it wears off. The real kicker? Coffee is a diuretic, meaning it can dehydrate. One of the symptoms of dehydration? Exactly right: drowsiness.
The only real cure? Better sleep health. The sleep best practices
Make sure to get enough sleep every night — at least seven hours. Remember, there’s no destination or deadline that’s worth risking anyone’s lives. Drowsy driving is everyone as drunk driving, so put your best self behind the wheel.