A new AAA study reveals the potential dangers of driving while tired and who might be falling asleep at the wheel, for National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.
More than a quarter of tired drivers reported having a hard time keeping their eyes open behind the wheel, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study.
Drivers between ages 19 and 24 are often fatigued because they stay up late and wake up early, compared to older drivers. Drivers ages 75 and up are least likely to drive while being tired, according to AAA.
“Many drivers simply underestimate the problem of driving while extremely tired and overestimate their ability to deal with it,” Lloyd P. Albert, AAA Southern New England Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs said in a statement.
Drowsy driving can slow reaction time, impair vision and cause lapses in judgment – all comparable consequences of driving under the influence.
“Many times a very fatigued driver may fall asleep for several seconds at the wheel without even realizing it,” Albert said.
Warning signs that may signify drowsiness while driving are:
- The inability to recall the last few miles traveled
- Having disconnected or wandering thoughts
- Having difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open
- Feeling as though your head is very heavy
- Drifting out of your driving lane, perhaps driving on the rumble strips
- Yawning repeatedly
- Accidentally tailgating other vehicles
- Missing traffic signs
If a driver finds themselves fatigued, AAA advises they find a safe place to pull over and stop driving.
To stay alert while behind the wheel, AAA suggests:
- Get plenty of sleep (at least seven hours), especially the night before a long drive;
- Drive at times when you are normally awake;
- Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles;
- Avoid heavy foods;
- Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving;
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment; and
- Consult with a sleep specialist or other medical professional if you have trouble getting enough rest or are chronically fatigued.
The National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week runs from Nov. 3 to 10. For more information, visit DrowsyDriving.org.