Asleep at the wheel? Pull over!!!

If you are tired and have a long drive ahead of you, you might want to think twice before getting behind the wheel. Falling asleep at the wheel is clearly dangerous, but being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you don’t fall asleep. Drowsiness can make drivers less attentive, slow their reaction time and affect their ability to make safe decisions.

Although it may be difficult to attribute a fatal vehicle crash to drowsy driving, it is implicated in 100,000 car crashes per year, which leave 71,000 people injured and 1,500 dead according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some experts feel that the number of fatal crashes each year due to drowsy driving is closer to 5,000 or 6,000 people.

New research on the need for adequate sleep in maintaining good health, coupled with the negative impacts of sleep deprivation are coming to the attention of policymakers, and investigations are ongoing into what role drowsy driving is playing in traffic accidents. In 2003, New Jersey legislators signed the nation’s first law that specifically named driving while drowsy as a criminal offense, and many other states may soon follow suit.

Some of the warning signs of drowsy driving include:

• yawning or blinking frequently.

• missing your exit.

• drifting from your lane.

• hitting a rumble strip.

Some safe solutions to prevent drowsy driving are:

• change drivers if possible;

• take a break from driving every few hours;

• pull over off the roadway (such as a well lit rest area or parking lot) and get some sleep;

• get plenty of sleep before starting any road trip; and

• stop and stay at a hotel or motel

Don’t try to drive all through the night.

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