Drowsy Driving results in 72,000 Car Collisions Every Year
Drowsy driving kills. It claimed 846 lives in 2014 according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.These reported fatalities (and drowsy-driving crashes overall) have remained largely consistent across the past decade. Between 2005 and 2009 there was an estimated average of 83,000 crashes each year related to drowsy driving. This annual average includes almost 886 fatal crashes (2.5% of all fatal crashes), an estimated 37,000 injury crashes, and an estimated 45,000 property damage only crashes. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drowsy-driving
It’s natural to be tempted to push on. It’s expensive (in time and money to stop for the night at a hotel. You’re not that far from home. But, driving while drowsy results in 72,000 car accidents every year and over 800 deaths. Injuries from car accidents can cause brain, back, and neck injuries that may affect the victim for the rest of his or her life.
When you’re fatigued, sleep deprived, and struggling to stay awake, you have to take quick action, like pulling over or changing drivers, to protect you and your family.
Some people don’t realize they’re too tired to drive. When you know the what to look for, you’re better prepared to take action. A few signs to watch for include:
· heavy blinking
· driving past your exit on the interstate
· drifting out of your lane
· forgetting the last few miles driven
Most people have experienced these symptoms at one time or another, but you may not have been aware of the serious toll sleep deprivation takes on the brain and body. Sleep deprivation causes:
· slowed reaction times, including judgement and vision
· short term memory loss
· lowered motivation
· mood changes, including aggressive tendencies
· difficulty processing information
Alert Driving Starts at Home
Change starts by taking sleep seriously. Adults should sleep seven to eight hours every night, but insomnia, shift work, and stress can interrupt your ability to get the rest you need. There are actionable steps you can take to help yourself get the rest you need and stay safe on the road.
Eat for Sleep Success
What and when you eat impacts your ability to sleep at night. Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided at least four hours before bedtime to make sure they won’t keep you up or disturb the sleep cycle. Try to eat a light, early dinner to prevent discomfort when you lay down. If hunger pains start rumbling, a healthy snack with protein and complex carbohydrates works great to tide you over until morning.
Reasonable bedtimes aren’t just for kids. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends, helps set your body’scircadian rhythms. A consistent bedtime trains your brain when to release hormones needed to make you sleepy.
Develop a Routine
To support a consistent bedtime, you might need to develop a bedtime routine. The routine can include anything that helps calm your mind and body. A warm bath, hot cup of herbal tea (no caffeine), or reading a book (a real book, not an e-reader or anything with a bright light) are a few simple activities to get the ideas rolling. When done consistently, a bedtime routine enhances your brain’s ability to trigger the sleep cycle.
The Right Environment
Your bedroom should be solely devoted to sleep. When it’s time for bed, turn the temperature down to anywhere from 60-68 degrees. Your body temperature drops while sleeping and a lowered room temperature supports your natural sleep cycle. Keep the room as quiet as possible, and make sure you have supportive mattress that doesn’t leave you waking with any aches and pains.
Thanks to Ben DiMaggio for this article. Ben is a researcher for the sleep science and health organization, Tuck, https://www.tuck.com/. Ben specializes in investigating how sleep, and sleep deprivation, affect public health and safety. Ben lives in Portland, Oregon. His worst sleep habit is checking his email right before bed.