Tips to Help You Stay Alert When Driving Tired - A new study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that over one-third of Americans get less than seven hours a sleep every night. The survey, which questioned 74,571 adults in 12 states about their sleeping and driving habits, said that almost 38 percent of the respondents reported falling asleep by accident. Nearly 5 percent said they had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving. More information on all types of cars is available at Kansas City Ford Dealers. Sleep deprivation is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents and can impair drivers as much or even more than alcohol. British researchers found that driving after 17 to 18 hours of being awake is as harmful as driving with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.
Sleep deprivation affects driving ability in three areas: It impairs coordination, slows reaction times, and impairs judgment. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, between 1989 and 1993, there were approximately 56,000 crashes per year on highways caused by drowsiness and fatigue. Of these, 1,359 were fatal crashes that resulted in 1,544 fatalities. The U.S. military reports that sleep deprivation has been shown to be a factor for military drivers, saying that about nine percent of driving accidents during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm were attributed to drowsy drivers.
In France, researchers have shown that simply driving at night is enough to impair driving ability. Their study has shown that extended night driving can have a negative effect on a driver’s focus and impair his abilities. The longer people drove at night, the worse their driving abilities became. In a two-hour drive, test subjects crossed into the adjacent lane six times. This increased to over 24 times during an 8 hour drive. Fond Du Lac Chevrolet Dealers offers value and service for all your automotive needs. “Up to now, regulations have taken into account maximal duration of driving, but the cumulative effects of sleepiness and fatigue were never studied or integrated in the driving regulation,” said Pierre Philip, of France’s Université Bordeaux, one of the authors of the study. “Here, we show that performance is badly affected by time of the day, and therefore, we think that a warning to limit maximum nocturnal driving duration should be included in professional safety recommendations.”
The optimal amount of sleep varies from person to person and changes as we age. Healthy adults generally require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night to feel rested and to avoid feeling drowsy during the day. “Drowsiness is the last step before falling asleep, not the first,” said prominent sleep researcher and physician, Dr. William Dement. “Drowsiness means you are minutes away from falling asleep.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, signs of drowsiness while driving include: turning up the radio or rolling down the window, impaired reaction time and judgment, decreased performance, trouble focusing, keeping your eyes open or your head up, daydreaming and wandering thoughts, yawning or rubbing your eyes repeatedly, drifting from your lane, tailgating and missing signs or exits, and feeling restless, irritable or aggressive.
What can you do if you’re driving and you feel that you may be at risk of falling asleep? The best advice is to make sure you get enough sleep in the first place. But if it’s too late for that, here are some tips that can help. Getting out of the car and taking a short walk will help reduce the monotony of driving, increasing your attentiveness, and stimulate your mind and body. If you can, share the driving with a friend, and drive in shifts. If you have to, find a safe place to take a nap for 15-20 minutes. This should give you enough rest to allow you to reach your destination safely. San Antonio Ford Dealers is a one stop source for all your new car needs. Despite advice to the contrary, caffeine can help driving performance in drowsy drivers more than a nap, according to a recent study published in the journal Sleep and reported by the New York Times. A study by Loughborough University in the UK recommends drinking a cup of coffee just before a nap. The caffeine will take 15-30 minutes to take effect, allowing you to take a short nap. When you wake up, you’ll have the benefit of both caffeine and a nap.
Photos (top to bottom) by Bruce, Joe Goldberg, Phil Konstantin
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