Newswise — Have you ever found yourself dozing off behind the wheel? According to a survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), you’re not alone. In fact, an alarming 45% of Americans admit to struggling to stay awake while driving a vehicle, posing a danger to public health and safety on the roads.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsy driving causes an average of 328,000 crashes annually, including 6,400 fatal crashes. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24, who are subject to erratic sleep schedules and have less experience behind the wheel, are most at risk of getting into an accident while driving drowsy – and males have a higher risk than females.
“Driving while drowsy drastically reduces alertness, hindering drivers’ reaction times and decision-making skills. Such drivers are unable to swiftly react to road hazards and other vehicles. In many ways, drowsy driving behavior mirrors that of being intoxicated,” says Dr. Kannan Ramar, president of the AASM.
To combat and prevent drowsy driving, the AASM recommends that drivers:
- Obtain enough healthy sleep before driving so that you can stay alert behind the wheel. The AASM recommends that adults should sleep seven or more hours per night on a regular basis.
- Avoid driving late at night or while alone, if possible, and share the driving with another passenger on long trips.
- Pull over at a rest stop and take a nap if you begin to feel drowsy.
- Arrange for someone to give you a ride home after working a late shift.
National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is Nov. 1-8. Be aware of drowsy driving’s warning signs, which include:
- Frequent yawning or inability to keep your eyes open
- Catching yourself “nodding off” or having trouble keeping your head up
- Inability to remember driving the last few miles
- Missing road signs or driving past your turn
- Following too close to cars in front of you
- Drifting into the other lane of traffic
- Driving onto the “rumble strip” or the shoulder of the road
“Ultimately, drowsy driving is completely preventable,” added Ramar. “By achieving consistent, healthy sleep, drivers can get behind the wheel well-rested and equipped with the energy and judgement to be safe, alert drivers.”
Click here to download the AASM Sleep Prioritization Survey drowsy driving results.
To learn more about the importance of healthy sleep before getting behind the wheel, visit SleepEducation.org.