Don’t Be A Statistic This Holiday Season

The phrase ‘reckless driving’ brings to mind irresponsible people out joy riding for a thrill…but more than likely it is due to fatigue.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that drowsiness or fatigue is a principle factor in up to 100,000 police reported crashes annually.  The result is some 71,000 injuries and 1,500 casualties.  Drowsiness causes our reaction time to slow, impairs our judgment, and makes us less aware.  It isn’t all that different from driving drunk except there currently isn’t a test such as a breathalyzer to prove it.

These fatigue related crashes are almost always a single vehicle that leaves the highway and hits a fixed object (sign, tree, fence, or other structure) or the vehicle rolls over.  It is believed that 40 – 60% of these “off the road” crashes are due to driver drowsiness.  These account for one-third off all traffic deaths nationally and two-thirds of fatalities in rural areas. 

Who is most likely to find themselves up close and personal with a tree or other object? 

  • Male drivers aged 16 – 29
  • People who work long hours
  • Non-traditional work schedules
  • Those with rotating work shifts
  • Commercial drivers
  • Medicated drivers
  • Those with undiagnosed sleep disorders

What are the hours that most of these incidents occur?

  • 12:00 am to 6:00 am
  • 1:00 pm
  • 5:00 pm

When you should be concerned

  • When you have no recollection of the last few miles driven
  • You can’t focus
  • You head keeps nodding downward
  • You drift from lane to lane
  • You keep hitting the “rumble” strip on the side of the road
  • You keep yawning
  • You feel stiff
  • You are “heavy eyed”
  • Your reaction time is impaired

What can you do to become more alert?

  • If possible, take a 30-minute power nap
  • Drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages
  • Get out of the vehicle and walk around a bit to improve circulation

What doesn’t work?

  • Loud music
  • Opening car windows for “fresh air”
  • Turning on air conditioning

Too many drivers think these things will keep them alert but sadly have found out differently!

It is always wise to avoid medication, even so-called non-drowsy over-the-counter cold medications when you will be driving.  Certainly, avoid alcohol. 

If you think it can’t happen to you remember this; 37% of Americans have nodded off while driving.  This does occur twice as often in men with 49% saying they have experienced it while only 26% of women admit to it.

Stay awake, America!

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