Be smart, take a safety break
From an original article by Gene Turney, Past President, Tennessee Sleep Society
- Fatigue is one of the big three killers on our roads
- Fatigue-related crashes are twice as likely to be fatal – drivers who are asleep can’t brake
- Being awake for about 17 hours has a similar effect on performance as a blood alcohol content of 0.05
Fatigue can be fatal
Driver fatigue is one of the top three contributors to the road toll. Research has shown that fatigue can be as dangerous as other road safety issues, such as drink driving. But unlike drink driving, there are no laws regulating driver fatigue. Public education campaigns are currently the only way to address driver fatigue for car drivers and motorcyclists.
Here’s a good short video from the state of Utah, which points out how sleepy driving affects more than just the driver.
Our tips to avoid driving tired help you plan ahead to ensure you’re not tired before you hit the road. The tips section below shows you how to detect the early warning signs of fatigue when you are driving and how to find rest areas in Oregon.
To better understand how fatigue can affect you, the Science of sleep explains how the human body is subject to circadian rhythms and sleep debt.
REMEMBER: Sleep is the only cure for tiredness.
Tips for staying safe and refreshed while driving
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2013 that an estimated 15-33 percent of fatal crashes might involve drowsy drivers. Dr. Mark Rosekind, noted sleep scientist and now a member of the National Transportation Safety Board warns about the dangers of drowsy driving and the need for more public awareness. “For some reason people in our culture think it’s OK to lose sleep and get behind the wheel. It’s just as bad as drinking and driving. As far as public awareness, drowsy driving is in the dark ages,” he said.
Who is at risk?
- Young drivers, especially men under 26 years old
- New parents
- People working long shifts and/or more than 60 hours per week
- Shift workers, especially swing shift workers
- Long haul commercial drivers
- Business travelers that travel across time zones and suffer from “jet lag”
- People with un-diagnosed or untreated sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy – conditions that can cause excessive sleepiness
Drowsy driving is a choice
- A driver makes the choice to either drive drowsy or continue driving after becoming sleepy
- Driving drowsy can cause impairment equal to driving under the influence of alcohol
- A drowsy driver is usually unable to gauge the degree of his/her sleepiness
- When the need for sleep becomes overwhelming the driver does not have the ability to prevent it
- Choosing to drive drowsy is reckless behavior and a threat to public safety
The signs of drowsy driving
- Fighting to stay awake
- Frequent yawning and eye blinking
- Head bobbing up and down – you have fallen asleep!
- Lane drifting/departures
- Hitting the rumble strip or shoulder of the road
Here’s an animated video that shows a different perspective about the signs of driving while sleepy.
How to prevent drowsy driving
- Plan your trip in advance and make sure you get adequate sleep
- Do not start a trip tired or sleepy
- Check to see if any medications you are taking causes drowsiness
- Do not mix alcohol and sleepiness – never drink and drive
- Schedule regular stops (about every 100 miles or 2 hours) at one of our rest areas or parks
- During stops participate in some brisk activity to promote alertness
- If drowsy – stop, drink some caffeine, and take a 15-20 minute power nap
- If drowsiness continues – find lodging and get a good night’s sleep!
A highway safety survey conducted by the Center for Transportation Research and the Center for Applied Research and Evaluation at the University of Tennessee found that ninety-four percent of drivers say driving drowsy is unacceptable, yet nearly a quarter of the respondents had admitted to driving drowsy in the last thirty days.