Have you ever fallen asleep behind the wheel? Drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving that negatively affects a person’s ability to drive safely. Most people associate impaired driving with alcohol or drugs, but in this situation, sleepiness is the primary cause. Drowsy driving is not just falling asleep at the wheel. Driver alertness, attention, reaction time, judgment and decision-making are all compromised leading to a greater chance of crashing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes each year are caused primarily by drowsy driving and that such crashes result in more than 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
That is serious business, especially when the majority of adults think it is acceptable to drive drowsy. Drive Safe and Arrive Alive.
Our Efforts to Decrease Drowsy Driving
In Vermont's 2012 -2016 Strategic Highway Safety Plan, one of the state’s Critical Emphasis Area (CEA) is to "Curb Distracted Driving and Keep Drivers Alert."
The goals of the state are to:
• Improve the education of drivers as it relates to the dangers of Drowsy Driving.
• Improve public understanding of the risks associated with Drowsy Driving.
• Advance the use of infrastructure techniques and technology, such as roadway rumble strips.
• Employ media coverage to get the message out about the dangers of Drowsy Driving.
• Distribute printed materials, radio, television, digital, and earned media.
• Gather Data - The Vermont State Highway Safety Office (SHSO) annually conducts a driver attitude telephone survey. This survey is conducted to acquire data on the attitudes of drivers on various subjects including: enforcement of the laws, seat belt use, texting and driving, child car seat use, speed, aggressive driving and general personal driving behavior.
Drowsy Driving Facts: (Data from the NSF and NHTSA)
• Sleep-related crashes are most common in young people, especially men, adults with children and shift workers
• Adults between 18-29 are much more likely to drive while drowsy compared to other age groups.
• Men are more likely than women to drive while drowsy (56% vs. 45%)
• Men are almost twice as likely as women to fall asleep while driving (22% vs. 12%).
• Adults with children in the household are more likely to drive drowsy than those without children (59% vs. 45%).
• Shift workers are more likely than those who work a regular daytime schedule to drive to or from work drowsy at least a few days a month (36% vs. 25%).
• Sleep deprivation increases the risk of a sleep-related crash; the less people sleep, the greater the risk.
• According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in such a crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more, while people sleeping less than 5 hours increased their risk four to five times.
How do you know when you are too tired to drive?
• Having difficulty keeping your eyes open and focused.
• Difficulty keeping your head up.
• Drifting, swerving, tailgating, and/ or hitting the 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 and restless.
• Get plenty of sleep.
• Stop driving if you get sleepy.
• Travel at times when you are normally awake.
• Schedule a break every two hours, if you are driving a long distance.
• Drink a caffeinated beverage. Then take a nap in a safe place for 20-30 minutes while you wait for the caffeine to take effect.
• Travel with an awake passenger.