Drivers falling asleep behind the wheel of an automobile or truck are major problems we all face. Typical characteristics of crashes involving this driving hazard are:
- Late night/early morning hours
- Late afternoon (older drivers)
- Occur on high speed highways
- Driver doesn’t attempt to avoid crash
- Driver was alone
- Likely to be serious accident
- Single vehicle leaving roadway
A study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in conjunction with the Commercial Motor Vehicle Association showed that drowsiness was greater during night hours (midnight to dawn). The time of day of drowsiness was more a factor than total of hours driven. The study also revealed drivers need to be given the opportunity to obtain adequate sleep. (Average sleep time was 5.2 hours). Two major findings were: inadequate sleep and tendency for drowsiness at night.
In another study, young male drivers were more prone to sleepiness while driving, as well as shift workers. The young male drivers were not as interested in resolving the problem (inexperienced drivers contribute to many fatal accidents); however, the shift workers would welcome ways their employers could make the drive home safer for them. Fatigue and drowsiness can be a fatal combination; if employers could provide transportation for their shift workers who are not safe to drive, it would be of great benefit to the employee and employer.
Lawmakers should be made aware that the placement of rumble strips along the sides of highways have been shown to be effective to alarm or awaken sleepy drivers as their vehicle is going off the road. This is one small countermeasure to combat drowsy driving.
Ways to prevent drowsy driving:
- Plan ahead and get sufficient sleep before trip
- No drinking alcohol, even small amounts (it’s against the law)
- Limit driving between midnight and 6 a.m.
- Ask passenger to drive, when you feel sleepy
- Stop in a safe place for a 15-minute nap
- Consume caffeine equal to 2 cups of coffee
- Avoid driving too many hours per day
- Stop and take breaks
We hope this article didn’t put you to sleep, and that you will drive safely!