In theory, people know they need their sleep. Most of us need from seven to nine hours of rest each night, but many cut back in order to get more done during the day. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a multitude of health problems, but what if it led to something more serious? What if one late night led to you taking a life?
What do you do before you turn the ignition in your car? Driver’s education tells you to check the tires and mirrors, scan the backseat for unexpected passengers and fasten your seatbelt. Education, the media and common sense tell us to never, ever drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But how many of us are responsible enough to know if we’re too tired to drive?
Driving while drowsy can be extraordinarily dangerous. Dwindling alertness, diminished reaction time and fading senses can all affect a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are; if you fall asleep behind the wheel for even a second, you are putting your life and others’ lives at serious risk. Much longer than that, and there will almost certainly be an accident. Avoiding driving while drowsy is one way to prevent accidents, injuries and deaths on the roadway. Here are a few tips to keep yourself and others safe.
If you know you’re exhausted and you don’t have to drive, don’t. Being under the influence of sleep deprivation is not the time for a spur of the moment trip to the grocery store. If you have plans to go somewhere with a friend, offer them gas money and ask them to drive. And conversely, if you’ve got a sleepy friend, offer to drive them. Consider calling a cab for shorter trips, or take public transportation. If you absolutely must drive, get some caffeine in your system. It may not be a perfect solution, but it’s a temporary solution to raise alertness. And if you feel yourself dozing off, pull over; being a few minutes late to work is worth potentially saving a life.
A May 31 accident on I-95 about 30 miles out from Richmond, Va., highlights the deadly risks of driving while drowsy. Kin Yiu Cheung, a driver for North Carolina based Sky Express Inc., was charged with reckless driving when driving while drowsy caused him to wreck the tour bus he was driving. This accident led to the deaths of 4 people and 56 more being injured as a result.
Only one state–New Jersey–has a law against knowingly driving while sleep deprived. But like anything else, it’s up to drivers to take responsibility for what they do before and after getting behind the wheel. Driving while intoxicated, distracted driving and driving while drowsy are all risk factors for accidents. Avoid them all, and you do your part in keeping the roadways safe.