The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has established November 5-12 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week to bring awareness to the "perils of driving while sleep deprived.” According to NSF, driving while sleep deprived is responsible for over 6,400 U.S. deaths each year. And according to a poll by NSF, "three in 10 Americans reported not knowing how many hours they could be awake without sleep and still drive safely,” which highlights the needs for education and awareness of the risk of driving while sleep deprived.
Lack of sleep can impact many areas of our lives including but not limited to: lower immune system, decrease productivity, and slower reaction time while driving. The latest research by NSF shows that "22 hours of continuous awake time makes you unfit to drive.” And driving without sleep can even pose the same risks as driving under the influence. Our bodies get into a rhythm of being awake and asleep, when we change those patters it can impact how we drive. This can be particularly difficult for employees working shift work, especially if they are on nights.
The NSF offers these signs to evaluation if you should be behind the wheel:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
Ideally we would all get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and be prepared to drive. Because of busy work lives, possible shift changes, and responsibilities, 7-8 hours of sleep may not always be possible. Here are some others tips to stay safe on the road:
- The pre-drive nap: taking a short nap before a road trip can help make up for a short night's sleep.
- The mid-drive nap: if you find yourself drowsy while driving, pull over to take a short nap of 20 minutes. Make sure you are in a safe location and remember you'll be groggy for 15 minutes or so after waking up.
- The Buddy system: It's safest to drive with a partner on long trips. Pull over every two hours and switch drivers, while the other takes a nap if possible.
- Don't rush. Better to arrive at your destination safe than on time.
- Do not drink alcohol. Even very small amounts of alcohol will enhance drowsiness.
- Don't drive between midnight and 6 a.m. Because of your body's biological rhythm, this is a time when sleepiness is most intense.
- Drink caffeine: caffeine improves alertness, although be aware that the effects of caffeine will wear off after several hours.
Stay safe and plan ahead whenever you can. Getting a good night’s sleep is the best way to prevent driving while drowsy. It may not always be easy to take extra time but it is always worth it to prevent an accident.
One Team. One Vision. One Goal. – Everyone Goes Home Safe!