Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

drowsy-infographicDid you know that driving while tired can be just as dangerous as driving drunk?

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studied drowsy driving habits in 2015. They asked participants how often they drove “so tired [they] had a hard time keeping [their] eyes open.” The report revealed:

  • 32% of drivers reported driving drowsy at least once
  • 51% of men reported driving drowsy versus 36% of women
  • 40% of drivers ages 19-24 reported driving drowsy at least once
  • 4% of drivers drive drowsy regularly
  • 10% of drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in the last year
  • 20% of drivers ages 19-24 admitted to falling asleep in the last year

These are American statistics, but the picture is very similar in Canada. According to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, fatigue is a factor in up to 21 per cent of motor vehicle collisions, resulting in about 400 deaths and 2,100 serious injuries every year. At 21 per cent, fatigue would rank as the third highest measurable cause of collisions behind alcohol impairment and speed-aggressive driving.

Driving drowsy impairs your reaction time and concentration, which can cause you to miss road signs, wildlife, movements by other vehicles, and other important things that you should be taking note of while you drive. It also alters your judgment and can affect your vision.

When you think about it, all these impacts from fatigue are very similar to the impairments that make drunk driving so dangerous. Unlike alcohol and drug impairment, however, drowsiness is not an easy impairment to measure and enforce against. It is up to us as drivers to decide when it is no longer safe for us to be on the road.

There are several ways that you can avoid the dangers of driving drowsy:

  • Don’t drive if you have been awake for more than 18 hours. An Australian study concluded being awake for 18 consecutive hours produced an impairment equivalent to a person with a .05% BAC level. After 21 and 24 hours, the impairment jumps to match a person with .08% BAC level, the national drinking and driving limit, and .10% BAC level.
  • On long drives, make sure you eat good food (not just Timbits!) and stay well hydrated.
  • Take a break from driving every 2 hours to stretch and walk a bit if you are on a longer drive. When driving in the dark, take breaks even more frequently, as the darkness will tend to make you feel even sleepier.
  • If you start to feel tired while driving, stop to take a quick nap, go for a short walk or drink a caffeinated beverage. Please remember that caffeine is NOT a replacement for sleep, however. It can help you perk up when you’re just beginning to feel a bit tired or bored on the road. It cannot make up for missed sleep.
  • Avoid driving during the times of day that you are most tired. For most people, that is between 2:00 am and 7:00 am, and 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm.

Just as with reading a text message while you’re driving, deciding not to take a short break or stop for the night could cost you or someoneelse their life. It’s simply not worth it to take that risk.

November 6-13 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. Use the hashtag #Awake2Drive to show your commitment to safe driving!