• May 29, 2008
Around Memorial Day, the chances are good that either you or somebody that you are sharing the road with today has been out and about, spending the day with family or just enjoying their time off. There have surely been many hours spent behind the wheel for drivers across the country. Hopefully, drunk driving is kept to a minimum. But, there is another possible problem-driver on the road: the drowsy driver. It's likely that most of us have had that feeling behind the wheel, where we struggle to keep our eyes open. A new study from the National Road Safety Foundation, which is a non-profit group that produces driver aids, suggests that those drowsy drivers are equally as dangerous as drunk drivers. According to its research, a third of drivers polled admit to falling asleep behind the wheel in the last year alone. Suggestions for combating drowsiness behind the wheel include the obvious: pulling over, drinking a coffee or two and waiting about half an hour for the caffeine to hit your bloodstream. Consider this a friendly reminder to be safe out there.
[Source: National Road Safety Foundation]

Press Release:

Drowsy Driving as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

More than a third of drivers have dozed at wheel; National Road Safety Foundation offers tips to stay awake on the road

As people jam the roads and highways over the Memorial Day weekend, which marks the start of the peak summer driving season, there's greater risk of being -- or running into -- a drowsy driver, says the National Road Safety Foundation, Inc., a non-profit group that provides free driver safety films and programs including its newest, called "Recognizing the Drowsy Driver."

"A day in the sun can make you tired," says Adele Kristiansson, director of marketing and legislative affairs at the National Road Safety Foundation.

"Drowsiness is a condition most drivers fail to recognize, and it can be as dangerous as drinking and driving," she adds. "Studies show 60 percent of us have driven while feeling fatigued, and more than a third admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. Drowsiness is a factor in a substantial number of traffic crashes."

Experts list several signs that should warn a driver to stop and rest:

-- Difficulty focusing, with frequent blinking
-- Daydreaming or not remembering the last few miles driven
-- Head nodding
-- Repeated yawning or rubbing eyes
-- Drifting out of your lane, tailgating or hitting shoulder
rumble strips


If you experience any of these warning signs, pull over at the next exit or a safe rest area and take a break or a 20-minute nap. Have a cup or two of coffee or caffeinated snacks and allow 30 minutes for the caffeine to enter your bloodstream. Don't drink alcohol or take medication.

Sleep-induced crashes are often very serious, since the driver does not take evasive or corrective action as he loses control of the vehicle.

Over the past 40 years, 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 and aggressive driving. The Foundation's newest program, "Recognizing the Drowsy Driver," is available free by calling 1-800-SAFEPATH or visit www.nationalroadsafety.org for a free download of it and other driver safety programs.


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  • 20 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      The worst is when the driver is drowsy and intoxicated. New features on cars and roads can help.

      But drowsy driving part is a commentary on our society which is so rushed and busy that we don't get enough sleep. For that, there are many places we can point fingers... the individuals not prioritizing sleep in general, companies making people work too much, our materialistic nature which makes us work more to buy more things, and perhaps even our lack of healthy lifestyles where we eat too much of the wrong things and don't get enough exercise. I know I sleep better when I exercise and heavy people are more likely to have sleep apnea which leads to poor sleep.

      • 6 Years Ago
      I wonder when they will address the biggest problem in North American roads, bad drivers. Seriously, our licensing system and law enforcement is a joke. I'll take someone confidently and properly passing on the left at 120 over the imbisile creating a 4 mile backup by doing 55 in the same 70mph lane during rush hour any day of the week. Lane discipline and general rules of the road need to be enforced with a much greater emphasis than the current "*insert subjective offense* kills" programs they keep pushing.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Right about the time they take the money incentive out of traffic citations, which will be approximately never.

        As things stand now they are rewarded for ticketing the most drivers, not the most disruptive drivers. And you can write a lot more tickets in a shift of fishing from behind a billboard than you can actually driving around in traffic and looking for genuinely bad drivers.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This is nothing new. Studies have been showing this for decades. It's well enough known that engineers design features into the road to combat it. Those bumps on the side of the road. They're there to wake you up.

      I've always been amazed as to how easily people forgive accidents due to tired driving, but are quick to condemn accidents where alcohol was involved.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Am I any less badly injured after being hit by a sleepy driver than one with a few beers in him? Is my car less totalled?

        All that shows is the neo-prohibitionists at MADD are a better lobby than Serta.

        They're such a good lobby most people read the word 'drunk' and think guilty with no further discussion, even when that word means everything from 10 shots and weaving all over the road to two glasses of wine with dinner and no meaningful impairment on a slow, residential route.

        • 6 Years Ago
        I have a feature for Car Builders! It's called "Take control of our own lives" People wouldn't be so tired if we didn't have to work 2 to 3 jobs to make ends meet, plus take care of the house, plus take care of the kids, plus take care the bills etc etc etc.
        • 6 Years Ago
        ^^

        +1
        • 6 Years Ago
        "I've always been amazed as to how easily people forgive accidents due to tired driving, but are quick to condemn accidents where alcohol was involved."

        Both are dangerous, but while sleepiness can sneak up on someone who started the trip alert, the drunk driver is putting people at risk by deliberately starting out already impaired. That's why the drunk driver is universally condemned.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @ Dan...
        i agree w/ you 1000% Seriously, drunk driving is stupid. I've done it, i know lots of people that have...its dumb, and really the worst risk you can ever take, people can get hurt. But people who drive sleepy, knowing they can barely keep their eyes open are equally as bad IMO. I knew a girl once who was struggling to keep her eyes open, actually ran over a stop sign on the way home...still continued to soldier on even though that didn't wake her up, ended up slamming into a parked car, hitting a tree on a neighbors lawn, and totalling her car. Now, i'm not saying that everyone has done what she did...but one you see that you're swerving, starting to doze off...if you dont pull over, you're just as bad...maybe even worse IMO. sometimes a lot of people that have been drinking THINK they're ok to drive, just because they're not aware of their own limits. But when you're not under the influence to any controlled substance...u should have sense enough to know that you shouldn't be behind the wheel when you're dozing off every 45 seconds.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think drowsy is worse than drunk. I have seen drunk drivers swerve all over the road, but drowsy drivers seems to just hit stuff. At least drunk people see multiple copies of what they are trying to avoid, drowsy people don't see anything at all.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Some people are actually pretty decent drivers when drunk, just because they know there's something wrong and will try that much harder to focus, but nobody's a good driver when drowsy.

      In any case, having an extra activity can help in combating drowsiness, like smoking a cigarette, talking to someone, singing along to your favorite radio tune, or even chewing gum.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "a third of drivers polled admit to falling asleep behind the wheel in the last year alone"

      Wait what? 33% of people fall asleep at the wheel? I'm not sure I buy that but if it's true something should probably be done about this. I don't think 33% of the population even drives drunk.
      • 6 Years Ago
      According to this, I'm drunk most of the time at work :)
      But seriously, drunk driving ceases to be an academic discussion for those who've experienced its effects first hand.
      I've done my share of drowsy driving, but somehow that's different from drunk driving: when you're drowsy, you can wake up really quickly; when you're drunk, you can't just sober-up really quickly.
      Here are some interesting stats on people looking for drunk driving resources: http://www.clearhavencenter.com/addictions-research/drinking-and-driving/drunk-driving/
      • 6 Years Ago
      Thank goodness for Red Bull availability at nearly every gas stop in the North East of USA
      • 6 Years Ago
      The worse thing about driving drowsy is it gets progressively worse. When driving drunk you will get better over time. I know a lot more people who've been in accidents because someone was asleep on the road, even lost a cousin that way. It scares the crap out of me and yet I still from time to time flirt with that fine line of trying to do those last couple of miles.
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