Have you ever nodded off while driving?
If you answer yes – you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1-in-25 people nod off behind the wheel every 30 days.
That’s as many as 8.4 million drivers a year that fall asleep while driving.
8.4 million people. And that’s just the number of people willing to admit they have nodded off.
What’s more the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for 83,000 car accidents, over 35,000 of which result in serious injuries and almost 1,000 in deaths…
What’s going on?
Actually there are several causes.
First – Americans don’t get enough sleep. Public health experts estimate that as many as 1/3 of all Americans are sleep deprived. Many seriously so.
And sleep deprivation can impair a driver as much as alcohol intoxification.
What’s your body’s reaction to sleep deprivation? In many cases – a body deprived of sleep will begin to enter periods of involuntary sleep called microsleep. These brief periods of sleep can last from just a few seconds to as long as two minutes – and can occur without a driver knowing it happened.
At 60 miles per hour, a driver travels roughly 88 feet per second. During a five second period of microsleep at 60 MPH – a car under the control of a sleeping driver travels farther than the length of a football field.
Easy to see why drowsy drivers cause so many catastrophic car accidents.
Other causes of drowsy drivers?
One of the biggest – prescription and OTC drug use.
Did you know that almost 10 million Americans use drugs to help them sleep? Millions more consume sedatives like Xanax and Valium daily to control anxiety. And untold millions are under the spell of opioid pain pills like Oxycontin.
Each and every one of these drugs can and often does make a driver drowsy and impair reaction times.
Given the dual problems of sleep deprivation and drug use while driving – is it any wonder that the rate of car accidents and fatal car crashes is rising faster than at any time in the last 50 years? It’s happening because we as a nation are tired, overmedicated and distracted by cell phones.
Let’s stop the madness. Never get behind the wheel when you are tired or when you are under the influence of medications that impair your faculties. And keep your cell phone out of reach. Do it for yourself and your family.
Photo credit: Runs With Scissors via Interior Design / CC BY-NC-ND