There are many people digitally distracted while driving, but simply not being well rested can be just as dangerous.
Falling asleep behind the wheel is more common than you think. According to a new survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 25 drivers in the U.S. have admitted to falling asleep at least once in the previous month.
The demographic or behavioral profile of those who are most at risk for an accident caused by sleep deprivation include:
- Males under 25 years old
- Binge drinkers
- People who don’t wear seat belts
- People who have sleep problems (sleep apnea, a rising concern associated with obesity)
People who get less than five hours of sleep a night
The most dangerous scenario is with people who aren’t getting adequate sleep. According to Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist at the CDC, most cases of drowsy driving happen early in the morning or late at night “when your body is telling you, you should be in bed.”
Drowsy driving appears to be a serious threat, since Wheaton estimates that there may be as many as 7,500 motor vehicle accidents involving fatalities occur every year in the United States. Many of those are one vehicle accidents.
Falling asleep behind the wheel is certainly the most dramatic result of drowsy driving, but it’s not the only way being tired behind the wheel is dangerous. If you’re drowsy, your reaction time will be slower, and your vision and judgment are compromised.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 accidents related to driver fatigue are reported by police every year.
The first action people take if they find themselves nodding off while driving is to maybe turn up the radio or roll down the windows for some fresh air. But researchers are saying this hasn’t been shown to be effective. Their advice is to pull over and rest. That may not be practical advice if you’re on your commute to or from work, so make a point to get more sleep and/or address and lifestyle choices that may be playing a role.