Drowsy driving is a big deal.
If you don’t believe me, look at the findings of a new study from AAA.
It shows drowsiness is a factor in nearly 1 in 10 car crashes. That’s eight times higher than federal government estimates, which ballpark tiredness as a factor in 1 to 2 percent of all crashes.
AAA studied dashcam footage from 700 actual car crashes to come to its conclusion. Researchers studied the actions and habits of each driver in the three minutes leading up to a crash.
The findings could come as a big surprise to drivers, many of whom might consider it harmless to miss a couple of hours of sleep some nights, said Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA.
“Missing just two to three hours of sleep can more than quadruple your risk for a crash, which is the equivalent of driving drunk,” Nelson said.
So how do you know when your tiredness could put yourself or others at risk? AAA has identified these symptoms of drowsy driving:
- Trouble keeping your eyes open.
- Drifting from your lane.
- Not remembering several miles driven.
Unfortunately, sometimes drivers do not feel these symptoms before they fall asleep. The best thing is to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. (If you need help falling asleep at night, try these strategies.)
“Don’t be fooled, the only antidote for drowsiness is sleep,” said William Van Tassel, manager of driver training for AAA. “Short-term tactics like drinking coffee, singing, rolling down the window will not work. Your body’s need for sleep will eventually override your brain’s attempts to stay awake.”
To avoid driving tired, AAA recommends the following:
- Travel at times when you are normally awake.
- Avoid eating heavy foods.
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairments.
And of course, always remember these tips for long drives.
- Schedule a break for every two hours or 100 miles.
- Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving.
- Do not underestimate the power of a quick nap. Pull over to a safe place, if needed, and take a 20- to 30-minute nap.
Most of all, talk to other drivers in your family about the dangers of drowsy driving. You can’t control what every driver does, but you could help those who matter most to you avoid putting themselves in a dangerous situation.
To read more about this new AAA drowsy driving study, click here.