Health Day News today brought us some health tips about how to stay awake behind the wheel. Excellent advice. Dozing while driving is becoming a growing problem. Let's tale a look at some of the statisitics.
Asleep At the Wheel
Every day, newspapers all over America report automobile accidents caused by drowsy drivers. Most involve fatalities; all involve injuries and high costs to the drivers and to others.
The National Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 crashes each year are the results of sleepy drivers. These crashes cause 1550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in property loss and diminished activity. The scary part is that the number of such crashes may be much higher, perhaps even double.
Why aren't more of these accidents reported? Many times police do not recognize the signs of drowsy driving and there are no codes to follow. Therefore, many such accidents are attributed to other causes.
While anyone can experience occasional bouts with drowsy driving, the people most at risk are young men between the ages of 16 and 29, people who suffer from untreated or undiagnosed sleep disorders, the elderly, shift workers, and drivers who spend many hours behind the wheel without a break. This includes commercial drivers.
When driving, watch for signs you are becoming sleepy, such as yawning, lack of concentration or trouble keeping your eyes open. If you notice any of these signs or anything else that may indicate you are not driving with full mental capacity, pull over and take a break. Find a place to catch a little sleep and don't continue until you feel refreshed and awake.
But the danger extends to more than cars. Take a look at these possible cases.
If You Doze, Don't Drive
You're driving along the highway. Suddenly the car coming towards you swerves into your path. You hit the horn. The oncoming car swerves back into its own lane, overcompensates, and slams into the ditch. Luckily, the driver isn't hurt.
"I fell asleep," he explains sheepishly. An event that could have resulted in a tragic and fatal accident. An event that has done so many times. The driver, for whatever reason -- too many hours behind the wheel, a sleep disorder, highway hypnosis -- falls asleep, swerves into the wrong lane and slams into oncoming traffic.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lets take a look at other possible scenarios.
Instead of a car, the driver is at the wheel of an eighteen-wheeler hauling a load of hazardous waste. He's on the final leg of a long haul and has had no sleep for eighteen hours. He falls asleep, loses control, and the truck jackknifes across the highway, spewing out the hazardous contents. The accident occurs on the outskirts of a major city.
Instead of a truck, the driver is an engineer on a freight train, hauling freight across country. He has had insufficient rest. He falls asleep and the train hurtles across country with no one in control. A major rail accident just waiting to happen.