Almost every driver has done it, found themselves drifting a little behind the wheel. The eyes start getting blurry, the head starts bobbing, and you drift off for what might be only a fraction of a second. However, all it takes is less than half a second to drift into oncoming traffic potentially causing a catastrophic head-on accident or a rollover accident due to sudden overcompensation, common auto accidents linked to drowsy driving.

The AAA Foundation estimates that about one in six deadly crashes involves a drowsy driver. In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to save lives, the National Sleep Foundation is declaring November 6-12, 2011 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®. This annual campaign provides public education about the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy and countermeasures to improve safety on the road.

Drowsy Driving

The National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week calls to attention the dangers of driving while drowsy or highly fatigued. The national non-profit organization says new data shows that 96% of Americans feel it’s unacceptable for someone to drive when they are so sleepy they have trouble keeping their eyes open.

This has not stopped the fact that one-third of Americans admitted driving while fatigued or drowsy in the past 30 days. The NSF’s 2011 Sleep in America poll found that about one in ten 16-45 year old drivers report driving drowsy once or twice a week.

“People know that they shouldn’t text or drink when they drive, and that’s great,” says David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “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.”

Drowsy Driving Symptoms and Prevention

One of the most prevalent causes of drowsy driving is sleep depravation caused by lifestyle or sleep disorders. Everything from stress at work to a new baby can cause lifestyle sleep disorders that can equate to a serious danger when driving. There are other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy that can serious affect the safety of the operator of any vehicle.

All of these causes are easy to identify, but people still drive after being effected by these dangerous circumstances. Some people use caffeine, energy drinks, or other sources to keep them up. However, these only last a short while and the withdrawal results in even more drastic drowsiness. The trick is to identify drowsiness and act accordingly.

Symptoms of drowsiness:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and/or heavy eyelids
  • Difficulty keeping reveries or daydreams at bay
  • 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

Drowsy driving prevention is a big concern for us as well as the NSF. We have covered many issues in our article Drowsy Driving: Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions, but the NSF has it’s own set of rules that recommends people keep in mind this week.

  • Get a good night’s sleep: You’ll want to be alert before you hit the road. Be sure to get adequate sleep (seven to nine hours) the night before you go.
  • Don’t Rush: Many drivers try to maximize the holiday weekend by driving at night or without stopping for breaks. It’s better to allow the time to drive alert and arrive alive.
  • Share the burden: Just as you should not swim alone, avoid driving alone for long distances. Take turns behind the wheel and help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
  • Break every 100 miles or 2 hours: Get a snack, switching drivers, going for a run, stretch, or do breathing exercises.
  • Take a nap – Rest stops during the day are generally safe places to take a 15 to 20-minute nap, if you think you might fall asleep. Give yourself a few minutes to wake up before resuming the drive.
  • Avoid alcohol and medications: Even at legal amounts, they can cause drowsiness as a side-effect.
  • Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
  • Caffeine: The equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours.

Puget Sound Car Accident Lawyer

Drowsy driving has the unfortunate reputation as something that we all do and an unfortunate mistake, rather than the stigma of driving drunk even though both are equally as dangerous. What drowsy driving prevention week reminds us of is the fact that it is extremely dangerous behavior that is totally preventable.

Phillips Law Firm represents families of victims who have been injured or died in car accidents in Washington state. We are skilled attorneys in wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury lawsuitswith years of experience that they will use to assure that you get the compensation you deserve. Call today for a free consultation.