Driving While Fatigued is as Dangerous as Driving While Intoxicated

dreamstime_xs_53614514Federal regulations govern the amount of sleep truck drivers get. But what for people just driving  cars?

A person piloting 4,000 pounds of metal at 40+ mph needs to be fully awake. But adequate sleep often is neglected due to work, family and other obligations.

This is a serious problem since sleep-deprived drivers cause about 100,000 auto accidents every year.

Did you know that being awake for 18 hours has the same effects on your cognition, judgment, reaction time and attentiveness as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent – the legal limit to drive in Texas?

Are You Too Tired to Drive?

You would never dream of getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. You know that having a glass of wine raises your BAC to the point that you are at greater risk of crashing.

How do you know when you’ve reached your tiredness limit? These signs indicate you should not be behind the wheel:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Nodding your head
  • Lane drift
  • Running over the rumble strip or shoulder
  • Inability to remember your last few minutes of driving
  • Missing your turns or exits
  • Failing to notice signs or traffic lights
  • Heavy eyelids and frequent blinking
  • Daydreaming and disconnected thoughts
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Slow reaction time

This sounds like a list of drunk driving symptoms, doesn’t it?

Are You at Risk of Fatigued Driving?

Lack of sleep is the primary cause of fatigue. Six or less hours of sleep triples the risk of a car wreck. However, everyone is affected differently and you may also be affected differently by sleep, or lack of, one day to the next.

Other factors contribute to how well rested you feel, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Long-distance driving without enough breaks
  • Nighttime driving
  • Driving alone
  • Driving on a rural or boring road
  • Medications, including cold medicines and antidepressants
  • A work schedule of 60 or more hours in a week
  • Shift schedule at work
  • Having more than one job
  • Alcohol, even a little bit

Protecting Your Teenager from Drowsy Driving

Teens burn the candle at both ends. Between school, homework, sports practice, extracurricular activities and infinite socializing, they seem always to be on the go.

Teens may appear to be healthy and energetic, but in fact desperately need sleep. They may not even realize how tired they are.

If your teen is getting the same amount of sleep as you, you may think she is getting plenty of rest. However, teens often need more sleep than adults. Experts recommend 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep for teens per night.

In addition to improving your teen’s health and school performance, sleep is a matter of safety. Drivers younger than 25 years old account for a scary 55 percent of drowsy driving crashes.

To help your teen get enough sleep, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that you restrict their use of TV and computers close to bedtime and get them on a regular bedtime routine (I know, good luck with that!).

This is definitely a win-win. Get the sleep you need and make the roads safer for everyone.

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