A new report is bringing attention to the dangers of a surprisingly common habit of drivers around the country: not distracted driving, not drunk driving, but drowsy driving.
Considered to be a form of impaired driving, drowsy driving is a shockingly common yet very dangerous habit. An AAA survey revealed that in the past month, nearly a third of drivers have driven while they were “so tired that they could barely keep their eyes open.”
Prescription sleep aids may be a partial culprit, seeing as one in five Americans have gotten behind the wheel within seven hours of taking such medications, the survey found.
But in many cases, experts say, drowsy driving is simply “impossible to avoid.”
“Even the best-intentioned people get stuck drowsy driving sometimes,” Barbara Phillips, M.D., told Consumer Reports, citing the fact that few areas have a comprehensive public transit system.
Here’s another wake-up call: the National Sleep Foundation says that sleep deprivation can be just as dangerous as alcohol consumption when it comes to getting behind the wheel. The foundation states that being awake for 24 hours is the equivalent to having a BAC of .10, past the legal limit.
Fortunately, there are steps drivers can take to limit their risk of drowsy driving occurrences:
- Get at least seven hours of sleep as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- If you feel like you’re getting enough sleep but you still feel drowsy throughout the day, consider getting evaluated for a sleep disorder.
- Know the side effects of your medications; many prescription meds and OTC meds list drowsiness as a potential side effect.
- Prepare for long drives by getting plenty of sleep the night before.
- Recognize when you’re simply too tired to drive and need to take a break for your own safety as well as others’.
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