Sleepless Nights and Dangerous Drives
Sleepless Nights and Dangerous Drives-
How Your Sleep Patterns Are Endangering You
Sleepless Nights With Horrifying Results
Everyone suffers from sleepless nights and tired days at least once in their lives. But the effects on your safety as well as others maybe greater than once thought.
For many years, drivers have been warned with data and tests that drinking and driving are a dangerous combo. But only recently have people began to become aware of the dangers of driving while drowsy. Deeper research has began and is showing shocking numbers.
Sleepless Nights By The Numbers
A study preformed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2015 reported a total of 35,092 lives were lost due to auto accidents. This was a increase of over 7% from 2014. During this time period, data was collected from police-reported crashes where at least one vehicle was towed away and/or when emergency personal were summoned. One of the questions asked of these drivers was how much sleep they had got in the last 24 hours. Drivers who reported sleep (in hours) far below the recommended levels, doubled the involvement rate in car crashes.. Over 800 deaths can be directly linked to falling asleep at the wheel.
According to a study preformed by AAA, Drivers who slept less than 4 hours in a 24 hour period were over 11% more likely to be involved in a car accident.
“Fatigue results in thousands of fatalities a year, and it’s under-reported,” said Debbie Hersman, president and chief executive of the National Safety Council, an Illinois-based nonprofit that promotes health and safety. “People who have been awake for 15 to 18 hours, we really see their crash rates go up.”
Lack of sleep isn’t the only contributing factor. Another study preformed in the Netherlands in 2011 found that driving at night for 2 hours was akin to driving while buzzed. And driving 3 or more hours at night can be likened to driving drunk. The effects of the darkness, the lack of stimulation, resulting from less noise/traffic/sounds, and night-day sleep reversal can have devastating results.
The Real Consequences- Are You Contributing to the Danger?
It’s not at all surprising that over 37% of adult Americans ages 20-39 and over 40% ages 40-49 report having less than the recommend amount of sleep each night. Daily struggles with family, housework, illnesses and stress keep millions of Americans from having enough sleep. Additionally, an estimated 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder. Sleep loss has become so synonymous with new parents, over stressed workers and busy households that many have become numb to the word “sleepy.” But much more attention needs to be called to the effects, both long term and short, of a tired person behind the wheel and what can occur because of it.
The American Sleep Association data reports that over 100,000 deaths occur each year in US hospitals due to medical errors- many of which sleep deprivation was a contributing factor. Additionally, approximately 40% of those surveyed reported falling asleep during the day at least once in the prior month. The brain will try to compensate for the sleep deprivation, often in a scary and fairly unnoticeable way, with micro-sleeps. These dangerous and often unnoticed nod offs can put you to sleep for a couple of seconds; seconds that can mean life or death.
After analyzing the data collected in the AAA study, the frequency of drowsy driving was shocking. One in three people had reported driving while drowsy in the last 30 days. Often times, we associate drowsy driving solely with long-haul truckers and long distance travels. But drowsy, sleep deprived drivers are much more common than what was previously thought.
When It Truly Hits Home- It Could Have Happened To Any Of Us
Karen Roberts, a nurse in Ohio, reported to NPR in 2016 about her brush with the realities of drowsy driving.
“It happens in an instant,” Roberts says. “I struck someone head on.”
Roberts fell asleep behind the wheel several years ago after working an overnight shift. She crossed the double line while driving home and caused an accident.Roberts says she did consider stopping for a soda or another pick-me-up that night as she was driving home. “I remember feeling so tired,” she says. But she was only a few miles from home and convinced herself that she could power through the fatigue.
Fortunately, the driver in the other car walked away with only minor injuries. Roberts says she recovered from her own injuries but has continued to struggle with health problems related to the crash, including headaches.
“Sleep is a bigger priority for me now,” Roberts told NPR, “Sleep is not a luxury, Roberts now knows. “It’s a necessity.”
Yes, I’m Guilty- How Can I Help It From Happening to ME?
A bout of sleepless nights does not mean you have to fall victim to a preventable crash
Unlike so many other challenges we face daily, drowsy driving CAN BE prevented. Experts report on many helpful strategies and tools that can lead to a safer drive and safer roads for all users.
Tips for Road Trippers
If you are planning a road trip that will require you to drive for more than two hours:
- Try to have another driver available to switch off with
- Think about and Plan your route beforehand, and make sure to denote rest stops along your route
- Do your best to get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before to assure your well-res
- Many over the counter, naturally-derived drowsiness deterrents are available including Alert Drops Spray.
- Be honest with yourself on how your feeling- do mental health check-ins every half hour of driving to consciously asses your condition.
- If your travels will include night driving, take 15-minute stretch and relax breaks every hour and continuously check in with yourself as to your condition.
- Don’t be afraid to stop and rest. Many drivers want to make impressively good time on their drives by driving for longer then is safe. In doing so, your not only endangering you and your car’s occupants, but other drivers and road users as well.
Tips for the Frequent Night Drivers
If you, like Karen Roberts, and so many other people in the United States are in a profession that requires you to work long-shifts, overnight shifts, or multiple shifts, there are tools and strategies available to help as well:
- Plan your time around your sleep. Try to assure that the sleep you receive is the best quality you can. This may include a new, better quality mattress, sleeping with an eye mask to trick your brain into nighttime, purchasing window darkening curtains, and sleeping with ear plugs due to the higher amount of sound pollution during the daytime.
- Switching to public transportation to assure safe arrival. This may also give additional time to take a refreshing nap.
- If your situation requires you to drive, may car companies now offer built-in safety devices that detect when the driver is nodding off or veering in lanes.
- Naturally derived alert-sprays, such as Alert Drops, can instantly raise alertness not only while driving, but to assist in the workplace as well.
- Educate yourself and your co-workers about drowsy driving. Consider a carpool to trade off the driving and offer additional hours of sleep.
- Speak to your employer about the dangers of drowsy driving and what ideas could make getting where you need to be safer.
Visit Our Sources for the Full Articles:
Reference: NPR- Drivers Beware
Reference: US News and World Report
Reference: Huffington Post
Sleep Deprivation Statistics Provided by: The American Sleep Association
Some Healthy Sleep Tips Obtained From: The CDC