Proper Sleep Improves Driver Safety

While the majority of Americans agree that driving when you’re extremely drowsy is unacceptable, nearly one-third admit this has happened to them in the past 30 days.

The statistics come from the AAA Foundation, which has joined the National Sleep Foundation to promote better sleep and safe driving practices. This week, November 6 through 12 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. It is also a time when many families make plans to travel the highways for long holiday weekends. Many travelers will be heading off the night before Thanksgiving after a long day at work.

“People know that they shouldn’t text or drink when they drive, and that’s great,” said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, in a news release. “However, many don’t realize that driving while drowsy is also very dangerous. If you’re so tired that you can hardly keep your eyes open, you could fall asleep for just a few seconds and not realize it. If that happens at 65 miles an hour, you could drive the length of a football field in an unconscious state.”

About one in six deadly car accidents involves a drowsy driver, according to the AAA Foundation.

Drivers who are sleepy have slower reaction times, impaired vision, judgement lapses and delays in processing information, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

They can improve their driving skills by making sure to get a good night’s sleep – seven to nine hours  – the night before a long road trip. Other tips include: driving during the day, drinking coffee, avoid driving alone, take turns driving, take breaks every 100 miles or two hours, take a nap in a safe place if necessary, avoid alcohol and medications that make you drowsy.

Additionally, officials at the National Sleep Foundation say you should stop driving if you have the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy eyelids
  • Continuous daydreams
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating and/or hitting rumble strips
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven
  • Missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Feeling restless, irritable, or aggressive

Sources: The National Sleep Foundation; AAA Foundation

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