We all know that driving under the influence is dangerous, irresponsible and illegal. But have you considered the dangers that come with driving while sleepy?
Fatigued driving — better known as “drowsy driving” — is more common than drunk driving and can be equally as 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 a prevalent problem
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1 in 25 drivers report 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 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 are estimated to be as high as 6,000.
Commercial drivers behind the wheel for long stretches 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: a 14-hour day, 11-hour driving limit and duty limits on driving days.
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.
A cup of coffee isn’t the hero of this story
The most logical answer seems to be utilization of coffee, but it’s not a replacement for sleep due to the exhausted feeling people often get when the caffeine wears off. The real kicker? Coffee is a diuretic, meaning it can dehydrate. One of the symptoms of dehydration? You may have guessed it – drowsiness.
The only real cure to combat driving fatigued? Better sleep. By advising your drivers to partake in better sleep and promoting safety over results, you begin to own your driver safety efforts and initiatives like a pro.
The most important tip to remember is that there’s no destination or deadline worth risking anyone’s lives. Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, so make sure you’re taking all appropriate steps to put your best self behind the wheel.
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