A recent AAA Foundation study again calls attention to the ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’ attitude that exists in this country when getting behind the wheel. In this instance, we’re referring to drowsy driving, which kills, just as sure as drunk, drugged and distracted driving does. A study we released last year showed one of every six deadly crashes and one in eight crashes causing serious injury involved a drowsy driver. Now, according to the Foundation’s 2011 Safety Culture Survey, two out of every five drivers (41%) admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, with one in 10 saying they had done so in the past year. Yet, nearly all of these same drivers (96%) feel drowsy driving is an unacceptable behavior and almost a third (32%) admitted driving when they were so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open in the past month.
Drivers have a tendency to underestimate the impact being tired has on their driving ability, which puts themselves and others at risk. To help raise awareness among all drivers of the seriousness of this deadly, yet far too common driving practice, AAA and the AAA Foundation applaud the National Sleep Foundation’s annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®.
Most people have experienced the feeling of sleepiness while driving, and many try to power through or dismiss key warning signs that signal their minds and bodies need a break from driving. Please read and pass along the following safety tips and help us continue our conversation on how to change traffic safety culture in this country.
Warning signs of sleepiness include, but are not limited to:
• 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 20-30 minute nap while you’re waiting for the caffeine to take effect
• Travel with an awake passenger
For more information on Drowsy Driving, including the Foundation's b rochure How to Avoid Drowsy Driving, visit aaafoundation.org