Editorial - Hey, you, behind the wheel: Wake up!Here’s a problem that in our estimation doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves: fatigued driving.
Here’s a problem that in our estimation doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves: fatigued driving.
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that one in 24 U.S. adults admitted to falling asleep while driving in the previous month. The number is likely higher than that, according to the health officials who conducted it, because some drivers don’t even realize when their eyelids droop and close for a second or two.
With so much energy focused on drunk and distracted driving, the problem of sleepy drivers often takes a backseat.
It’s time for a wake-up call.
It starts with more awareness about the scope and seriousness of the problem. The CDC study showed that drowsy driving was more common in men, those between the ages of 25 and 34, who averaged less than six hours of sleep each night.
There are some unknown factors associated with driver fatigue. For starters, it’s hard to pin down just how widespread it is.
Past studies have estimated that about 3 percent of fatal crashes involved drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Other estimates run as high as 33 percent.
There’s no “test” authorities can take to measure a driver’s sleepiness, no alcohol containers to find at the scene, no cell phones to blame, and as mentioned before, the drivers themselves may not have even realized that they nodded off, or woke up in time to tell about it.
In today’s around-the-clock culture, the dangers of driving tired pose a greater risk than ever. People’s schedules are more demanding than ever and sleep time is taking a hit because of it. Officials with the CDC are going as far as describing insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic. An estimated 50 to 70 million U.S. adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder, such as apnea.
Another study from the Centers for Disease Control, this one from 2011, found that more than one-third of adults get less than seven hours of sleep each night. A total of 23 percent of adults admitted difficulty concentrating because they were tired, 18 percent struggled with remembering things, and 11 percent said they had trouble behind the wheel.
People just aren’t getting enough shut-eye.
So what can be done, short of ordering earlier bed times?
Drivers must be made more aware of the risk they take by driving tired. They should recognize the warning signs of drowsy driving:
• Feeling very tired or exhausted.
• Not remembering the last mile or two they covered on the road.
• Drifting onto rumble strips on the side of the road.
• Snapping awake after their eyes close for a second or two.
All of these behaviors signal that a driver should get off the road and rest. They shouldn’t let their unsafe driving turn into an all-too-real nightmare.