Around the holidays we exhaust ourselves. Work — which is often exhausting — gets mixed in with hours of shopping, your own parties and company parties, the concerts and plays of children and grandchildren, charity events, etc.
It is all very sleep-depriving.
That brings us to a report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association a couple of months ago. Titled Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do, it notes that 83.6 million of us are sleep-deprived already and we’re driving. Add all the holiday stuff that started on Thanksgiving and ends on New Year’s Day and life on the nation’s streets and highways could be very dangerous this holiday season.
The report says we lost 5,000 lives in 2015 because of drowsy drivers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said there were 72,000 crashes between 2009 and 2013 because of drowsy driving. They caused $109 billion worth of damage. The NHTSA has begun pushing for ways to prevent drowsy driving accidents and added human fatigue to its list of transportation safety wants. It now ranks with drunk, drugged and distracted as impaired driving.
The problem of drowsiness also has gotten the concern of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It recently put sleep deprivation as a health priority.
AAA disagrees with the NHTSA figures and says drowsy driving is hard to pin down and believes there are lots, lots more drowsy driving crashes. Based on statistics from vehicles towed from accident scenes, AAA thinks drowsiness causes about 328,000 crashes a year with 109,000 of them leading to 6,400 fatalities.
Lack of sleep — as these three groups attest — has grown to epidemic proportions. We just aren’t getting enough sleep.
These are the common characteristics of drowsy driving vehicle crashes:
• They mostly occur in three different times:
• Late at night
• Early morning
• Most result in serious injury or death
• A huge percentage involve a single vehicle leaving the roadway
• Most involve a driver traveling alone
• A high percentage happen on high-speed highways like freeways
• Maybe worst of all — there is no evidence of braking
Here’s the biggest problem with drowsy drivers:
• They have slower than average reaction times
• They have impaired judgement
• They take more risks than the average driver
• They blink more and close their eyes more
• They demonstrate deficits in cognitive performance
• They show memory impairment
• They fail to pay attention
• They display a loss of visual awareness
Who is most likely — since no one is immune to drowsy driving — to have a drowsy driving crash? Teens and young adults are most at risk.
• Over half of the drowsy driving crashes each year involve people 25 and under
• Those working night shifts, long hours, irregular hours — including police, fire, EMS, doctors, nurses and commercial drivers — are at higher risk
• Those suffering from sleep disorders that are undiagnosed and untreated
Here are some life-saving, anti-drowsy driving tips:
• Be well-rested before you start driving
• If you’ve had several nights of fewer than 7 or 8 hours then your reaction time is slower
• Avoid driving between midnight and 7a.m. and in the mid-afternoon — these are the times we are naturally the least alert and most tired
• Don’t drive alone
• Travel with a well-rested passenger who can keep you engaged in conversation or share the driving load
• Don’t drink before you drive
• Don’t rely on caffeine to keep you awake
• Stop every 100 miles or so and walk around a bit
Source links: PropertyCasualty360.com, Risk and Insurance