Archive | November, 2006

Are You Driving Drowsy???

Posted on 08 November 2006 by Monica Zech

Danger Signals: How Sleepy Are You?

(Take our drowsy driving quiz.)

You can’t control your own sleep – ask anyone who’s ever had insomnia. Behind the wheel, if you’re tired you can fall asleep at any time. If you’re about to fall asleep, you will experience some or all of the following:

  • You have trouble keeping your eyes open and focused
  • You nod and can’t keep your head up
  • You daydream or have wandering, disconnected thoughts
  • You yawn a lot or need to rub your eyes
  • You find yourself drifting out of your lane or tailgating
  • You miss road signs or drive past your turn
  • You feel irritable, restless, and impatient
  • On the Interstate, you drift off the road and hit the rumble strips

    VERY IMPORTANT – If you have even one of these symptoms you could be sleepier than you think. Pull off the road and get some sleep. Obviously it’s dangerous to drive with your eyes closed. Do not sleep on the shoulder of a freeway, but find a safe spot off the freeway, like a gas station lot or 7/11 – and grab a quick cat nap.

    AAA Foundation research identified some of the risk factors implicated in drowsy driving crashes.

    Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you been awake for 20 hours or more?
  • Have you had six hours sleep or less in the last 24 hours?
  • Do you often drive between midnight and 6 a.m.?
  • Do you frequently feel drowsy while you’re driving?
  • Do you work the night shift?
  • Do you work more than one job?

    If you have any of these indicators you are at a much higher risk of having a drowsy-driving crash, even if you don’t feel sleepy. Half the drivers who had drowsy-driving crashes said they felt “only slightly sleepy” or “not at all sleepy” right before the crash.

    Falling asleep at the wheel accounts for a large number of vehicle accidents that occur under monotonous driving conditions (such as driving on long, smooth, relatively non-winding roads). Of course, boredom is often seen as an antecedent to drowsiness. If investigators believe that driving conditions are very likely to give rise to listlessness, they may be more likely to explore the possibility of drowsiness as a cause in the accident. What this indicates is that investigators may overlook the possible importance of drowsiness as a contributing factor.

    Involvement in drowsy driver crashes is also strongly related to the gender and age of the driver. In the years between 1990 and 1993, male drivers comprised a higher proportion of drivers who fell asleep than they did among all drivers. Approximately one third of the drivers who fell asleep were 18-24 years old, whereas the people in this age range comprise only 19 percent of all drivers (New York State Task Force on the Impact of Fatigue on Driving / Team to Explore the Nature and Scope of Drowsy Driver Crashes in New York State 1994). Horne and Reyner (1995) have found that young adults, those under 30 years old, especially men, are the most likely to have these accidents, especially in the early morning hours. These drivers were the most prevalent group of road users during this time of day. Older adults may be more prone to these accidents in the early afternoon hours. Further investigation is needed concerning this relation between gender, age and drowsy driving.

    Additional AAA studies:

    Informal group discussions with an assemblage of 25 Philadelphia college students, from the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and Temple University, revealed that the respondents usually employ the following behavioral techniques to combat drowsy driving:

  • Turning up the volume of the radio
  • Avoiding driving at night
  • Rolling down window
  • Trying not to stare at division line
  • Driving over rumble strips
  • Listening to rap music
  • Chewing gum (flavor need not be mint)
  • Pulling over and napping if it is during the day
  • Smoking
  • Conversing with someone
  • Driving a stick shift
  • Slapping/Pinching self
  • Screaming
  • Rotating drivers
  • Drinking coffee / caffeinated beverages
  • Stopping by the next rest area if it isnotdark
  • ing games in the car
  • snacking – eating

    Of the aforementioned behaviors, the most common technique employed by the participants were as follows:

  • Turning up volume of radio (76%)
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages (52%)
  • Rolling down window (48%)
  • Slapping / Pinching self (24%)

    Note: – Get a good nights sleep, especially if you’re going on a long distance trip. Avoid consuming alcohol if you’re driving, also sleep time cold medications and using sleep aid medications. And don’t mix medications with medications. Alcohol is a DRUG!!! Alcohol can change the way your medications react. You’re putting a drug on top of another drug when you take medications and then drink alcohol. In some cases, whether you’re driving or not, this behavior could lead to some very serious problems – like death! Especially behind the wheel. – Monica Zech

    Remember – “You need to be 100% alert behind the wheel to be a safer driver and avoid collisions.” – Monica Zech

    *Another web site to look at is called P.A.T.T. – People Against Tired Truckers. Yet another problem to be aware of when those who drive large semis on long distance trips nodding off behind the wheel. They tend to take large numbers of vehicles off the roadway.

    From P.A.T.T.: There has been an unfortunate increase in large truck deaths from 5,036 in 2003, to 5,190 in 2004!

    2004 Truck Crash Deaths per 100,000 people. In 2001, 429,000 large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 lbs.) were involved in traffic crashes in the United States: 4,793 were involved in fatal crashes. A total of 5,082 people died (12 percent of all the traffic fatalities reported in 2001) and an additional 131,000 were injured in those crashes.

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