Drowsy Driving: Causes And Risk Factors
Drowsy Driving is the physical manifestation of a brain-damaged motor vehicle, especially when being incapable of maintaining alertness due to a lack of sleep. Drowsy driving is the cardinal act of operating a vehicle while being mentally impaired by a lack of quality sleep. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that sleep-driving is the leading cause of auto accidents, and it causes more accidents than alcohol or drug use combined. According to a recent survey, twenty-three percent of all adult drivers have fall asleep at the wheel. This statistic is disturbing since sleep-driving is legally allowed for long stretches of time with a few minor caveats.
While being fatigued and/or sleepy, driving at night can be extremely dangerous because drivers cannot judge distances and cannot see hazards on the road. Also, because a driver becomes so focused on sleep, he or she may be unable to properly respond to an unforeseen situation or to accurately determine the car’s position in relation to other cars on the road. Some signs of Drowsy Driving include: the inability to make proper decisions, loss of peripheral vision, slurred speech, double attention, increased risk of accidents, and drive through fatigue. These symptoms are not limited to drivers who are tired or who are doing drugs or alcohol. In fact, Drowsy Driving has recently been added to the list of signs and symptoms of the graduated range of impairment of driving under the controlled substance DUI laws.
Unfortunately, Drowsy Driving is one of the leading causes of traffic deaths and motor-car accident related deaths of young adults. This is due to the lack of effective intervention strategies in schools, communities, and in the general society. Most school districts to suspend drivers who fail to meet their performance standards either through out-of-school suspensions or failing grades. Most communities have also created schools that provide Drowsy Driving interventions to students as early as possible in the learning process.
But what can we do to protect our teens and our drivers? The first thing that most experts agree upon is the implementation of universal and inexpensive Drowsy Driving School interventions. Studies show that the effects of Drowsy Driving can be significantly reduced with the implementation of these interventions. Also, most experts agree that the immediate need for sleep deprivation relief should be addressed before long term sleep deprivation problems develop.
Sleep is critical for driving, because the brain’s decision-making processes are processed while someone is asleep. Most driving instructors recognize that it is not only in the periods when people are asleep that they are more alert and better able to focus. However, the loss of muscle coordination, especially in the reaction time department, happens when people do not get enough or adequate amounts of rest. One of the primary reasons for this is due to the deterioration of the back’s natural sleeping architecture. Muscle reaction time is critical to avoiding collisions; however, during the periods of decreased reaction time, increased drowsiness and decreased cognitive performance can occur.
Unfortunately, most communities are unable or unwilling to implement schools that allow adult drivers to take a nap during the day. It is widely believed that a lack of school time for sleeping affects mood, energy level and alertness to an unhealthy degree. In fact, some experts believe that lack of REM sleep (REM) sleep can lead to depression, irritability and other emotional problems. Sleep is essential for the development of healthy relationships and a healthy outlook on life. Without proper amounts of REM sleep, adult drivers are more prone to drowsy driving habits.
Another important reason for the increased incidence of drowsy driving among adults is related to fatigue and shift workers. Long shifts, irregular work hours and holidays can cause severe exhaustion among workers that are not properly rested. The symptoms of such exhaustion are similar to those caused by chronic lack of sleep, including reduced mental acuity, poor concentration and physical tiredness. Long term drowsiness can lead to accidents and impaired reactions when faced with a driving hazard.
Although alcohol has been cited as a contributing factor in many drowsy driving crashes, studies have shown that it is not the main contributor. Drivers under the influence of alcohol should not drive after drinking to reduce the risks of crashing. Also, drivers should be aware that they will not be able to perform as well on the road while intoxicated as they would sober. Therefore, it is vital that drivers practice proper driving skills at all times.