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Some tips from the SMG Sleep Professionals…
Drowsy driving is a widespread national public health and safety issue. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving is related to at least 100,000 motor-vehicle crashes and more than 1,500 deaths per year. About 71,000 drowsy-related crashes involve non-fatal injuries. Drowsy driving can strike even the most seasoned driver and more needs to be done to protect the safety of everyone on the road. At Summit Medical Group, we would like to do our part to decrease the number of drowsy driving incidences by raising awareness and educating our patients and the surrounding community on the prevalence, dangers, warning signs, and prevention of drowsy driving.
What is drowsy driving?
Drowsy driving occurs when a person who is operating a motor vehicle is too tired to remain alert. As a result, the driver may have slow reaction times, reduced vigilance and impaired thinking. In the worst case, the driver may fall asleep behind the wheel.
Why is it dangerous?
Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Drowsy driving is dangerous because sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as drinking alcohol. Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive as if you have a blood alcohol level of .05%. If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive—say, after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep—it’s the same as having a blood alcohol level of .10%. This is higher than the legal limit at which someone is considered intoxicated. Sleep is the only preventive measure against drowsy driving.
Who is at risk?
Even one night of sleep loss or poor sleep can put you at risk of drowsy driving. But certain people have a higher risk of drowsy driving than others. A recent study published in the medical journal Sleep found that people with obstructive sleep apnea were 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in an accident than people without the sleep disorder. Fortunately, the study also found continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, therapy was effective at reducing the rates by up to 70 percent if the person used the technique for an average of four hours every night. Many people with obstructive sleep apnea remain untreated. Other sleep disorders which increase sleepiness include chronic insomnia, restless legs, and narcolepsy, where the sufferer falls asleep without warning during ordinary situations.
People who work night shifts or rotating shifts are at risk for drowsy driving. This includes people who work as doctors, nurses, truck drivers, pilots and police officers. The risk of drowsy driving is greatest when they drive home after work.
Many medications cause sleepiness as a side effect. People taking these medications are at higher risk for drowsy driving accidents.
Drowsy-driving accidents are most common among young men in their teens and 20s. These accidents tend to occur between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. 55% of all crashes in which the driver fell asleep involved drivers 25 years and younger.
What are the signs of sleepiness?
It is not uncommon for drivers to not identify the signs of fatigue. However, there are warning signs which indicate that you are too tired to drive. They include:
What are some tips for preventing drowsy driving?
We hope these tips will help you stay safe and alert behind the wheel. If you would like more information, please contact Summit Medical Group Sleep Disorders Center at 973-822-1772