Sleep deprivation is risky behavior, but many don’t realize until it’s too late. Following the tragic highway collision that resulted in heartbreaking consequences for comedian Tracy Morgan and his mentor, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is reiterating the dangers of drowsy driving.
Drowsy driving is responsible for more than 100,000 automobile accidents and 1,550 deaths in the United States each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent study reveals that 4.2% of U.S. drivers have admitted to falling asleep in the last 30 days while driving. In addition, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 16.5% of all fatal automobile accidents from 1999-2008 in the U.S, were due to a sleepy driver.
“Drowsy driving is a threat to personal health and public safety – it’s just as dangerous as drunk driving,” said Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). Morgenthaler continued, saying,“Similar to the effects of alcohol, drowsiness impacts alertness and response time, making it difficult to drive safely.”
So what can you do to prevent another fatal accident due to drowsy driving? The AASM asks that you recognize the signs:
-You can’t recall the last few miles you drove
-You can’t stop yawning and struggle to keep your eyes open
-You keep getting too close to the car in front of you
-You miss your turn or road signs
-You drift into other lanes on either side of you
-You can’t keep your head up
-You find yourself driving on the shoulder or rumble strip of the road
Remember that there isn’t a substitute for sleep. Short-term solutions of turning your music up, rolling down the windows, or drinking caffeine simply aren’t enough to fight drowsy driving. Pull over and take a nap or sharing the driving responsibilities with someone to ensure your safety and the safety of other drivers.