Nearly all drivers feel drowsy driving is an unacceptable behavior, yet almost one third admitted to driving while drowsy in the past month, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In light of these findings, and in recognition of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (Nov. 6-12), AAA South Dakota is alerting motorists to the dangers of this common, yet underestimated driving practice.
"In many ways, driving drowsy is similar to driving drunk — awareness decreases, reaction time slows, judgment is impaired, and your risk of crashing skyrockets," said Mark Madeja, spokesman for AAA South Dakota. "What's more, drivers have a tendency to underestimate the impact being tired has on their driving, which puts themselves and others at risk."
In its 2010 study, Asleep at the Wheel, the foundation found that one of every six deadly crashes and one in eight crashes causing serious injury involves a drowsy driver. Furthermore, the foundation's 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index revealed additional findings related to drowsy driving which include:
- 32 percent of drivers admitted to driving while "so sleepy [they] had a hard time keeping [their] eyes open" in the last month.
- Two out of every five drivers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, with one in 10 saying they had done so in the past year.
- More than eight out of 10 (82 percent) view it as unacceptable for someone to drive when they are having trouble keeping their eyes open.
- More than half of drivers (56 percent) rate people driving when they are sleepy as a very serious safety threat.
"With these eye-opening statistics in mind, we urge motorists to pay special attention to their driving behavior and take action if they are exhibiting signs of sleepiness," said Madeja.
Warning signs of sleepiness include:
- Having difficulty keeping your eyes open and focused, and/or having heavy eyelids,
- Difficulty keeping your head up,
- Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating, and/or hitting rumble strips,
- Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven,
- Missing traffic signs or driving past your intended exit,
- Yawning repeatedly and rubbing your eyes,
- Feeling irritable or restless.
To remain alert and prevent a fall?asleep crash, AAA offers these tips:
- Get plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) the night before a long trip,
- Stop driving if you become sleepy; someone who is tired could fall asleep at any time – fatigue impacts reaction time, judgment and vision, causing people who are very sleepy to behave in similar ways to those who are drunk,
- Travel at times when you are normally awake, and stay overnight rather than driving straight through,
- Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles,
- Drink a caffeinated beverage. Since it takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream, find a safe place to take a 20-to 30-minute nap while you're waiting for the caffeine to take effect,
- Travel with an alert passenger.
For more information on drowsy driving, including the Foundation's brochure,
How to Avoid Drowsy Driving, visit www.AAAFoundation.org.