Daylight Savings End Increases Risk of Drowsy Driving
Nov 2, 2011 - 10:50:30 AM
(HealthNewsDigest.com) - NEW YORK, -- Roads and highways throughout the nation will become more dangerous beginning early Sunday morning. That’s when the clocks are pushed back an hour as daylight savings time ends. The National Road Safety Foundation, Inc. (NRSF), a non-profit group that produces free driver safety videos and information, says the time change means more driving is done in darkness, increasing the likelihood of drowsy driving.
“Drowsy driving is a significant cause of traffic crashes,” says David Reich of the National Road Safety Foundation, "with fatigue considered a factor in more than 100,000 crashes every year."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving crashes result in at least 1,500 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses each year. Studies show more than 60 percent of U.S. motorists have driven while fatigued, and nearly 37 percent admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel. At highway speeds, a driver who dozes for only four or five seconds can travel more than the length of a football field, crossing into oncoming traffic or off the road and into a tree.
Drowsy driving crashes are likely to result in serious injuries. They often involve a single vehicle leaving the roadway, where the driver is asleep and does not attempt to avoid a crash. "In terms of the risk of serious injury or death to the driver and passengers, drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving,” Reich adds.
The problem is especially prevalent among teens, who tend to keep late hours and think they can function on minimal sleep. Teens actually require more sleep than adults, experts say.
The National Road Safety Foundation urges drivers to be alert to these signs of drowsiness while driving:
Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, rubbing eyes
Daydreaming or not remembering the last few miles driven
Head snaps and yawning
Drifting out of your lane, tailgating or hitting rumble strips
If you experience any of these warning signs, pull over safely and take a break. Have a cup of coffee or a caffeinated snack or take a 20-minute nap. Allow 30 minutes for caffeine to enter your bloodstream. Never drink alcohol before driving and know if any medications you take might induce drowsiness.
"Don't try to tough it out," says Reich. "Fatigue can force your brain into 'micro-sleeps' lasting several seconds, which can have devastating results. We've seen too many examples of people trying to make it for the last few miles, only to crash a few blocks from home."
Since 1962, the National Road Safety Foundation has produced films and teaching materials that have been used to train millions of young drivers about the dangers of drinking and driving, speeding, aggressive driving and distracted driving. To download or receive a free copy of the drowsy driving program, "Almost Home," visit the NRSF website at www.nrsf.org.
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