Drowsy driving can greatly increase the risk of auto accidents, due to reduced reaction times and lack of attentiveness, yet nearly half of all respondents in a recent survey acknowledged driving while they fight to stay awake behind the wheel.
According to findings released by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), 45% of adults admitted to driving drowsy, which may place themselves and others on U.S. roadways at risk.
Researchers from the AASM polled more than 2,000 participants on whether they have ever driven drowsy, highlighting the widespread problem of drivers operating motor vehicles while they may be too tired to effectively avoid a crash.
AASM released a series of recommendations for drivers to follow to prevent drowsy driving, which includes making sure they get enough sleep to be alert behind the wheel, avoid driving late at night and use caffeine as a short-term boost of alertness. The group also advises drivers to pull over at a rest stop to take a nap if they begin to feel drowsy.
“Driving while drowsy is similar to drunk driving with regards to the delays in reaction time and impairment in decision-making,” AASM President Dr. Kelly A. Carden said in a press release. “Drowsy driving can be deadly, yet it is 100 percent preventable.”
The survey results were released as part of the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, which ran last week, as part of an effort to raise awareness about the importance of prioritizing sleep to improve roadway safety.
The campaign specifically warned drivers to be aware of the warning signs of drowsy driving, which can include frequent yawning or inability to keep your eye open, catching yourself nodding off, inability to remember the last few miles driven, missing road signs, following too closely to vehicles, driving on to rumble strips and drifting into other lanes of traffic.
Previous data has found millions of drivers in the U.S. fall asleep behind the wheel each month, with more than 15 percent of all fatal crashes involving drowsy drivers, which have slower reaction times and experience impaired attention, impaired mental processing, judgment and decision making.
In February 2018, the The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a drowsy driving study, which found that night time drivers could be up to three times more likely to be involved in a crash when sleepiness is a factor.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving causes approximately 4 million automobile crashes annually, resulting in about 6,000 fatalities. In addition to the lives lost, drowsy driving is anticipated to cost the nation an estimated $109 billion each year.