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Echo Press editorial: Passing this quiz could save your life

Are you an accident waiting to happen?

You are if you get behind the wheel of a car when you're fatigued or drowsy. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association recently came up with a simple quiz to find out how much drivers know about the problem.

Will you pass the test? Circle "True" or "False" for each of the following statements, and then check your answers.

• There is no relationship between one's sleep and work schedule and risk of being involved in a drowsy-driving crash. (True or False)

• Working the night shift does not affect one's chances of being involved in a sleep-related crash. (True or False)

• The largest at-risk group for sleep-related crashes is commercial drivers. (True or False)

• Overall, sleep-related crashes have certain characteristics that set them apart from other types of crashes. (True or False)

• People with a sleep and breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea have about the same risk as the rest of the general population of being involved in a drowsy-driving crash. (True or False)

• Eating a big lunch tends to make everyone sleep. (True or False)

• People can usually tell when they are going to fall asleep. (True or False)

• Drivers in drowsy-driving crashes are more likely to report sleep problems. (True or False)

• Rolling down a window or singing along with the radio while driving will help keep someone awake. (True or False)

• Wandering, disconnected thoughts are a warning sign of driver fatigue. (True or False)

• You can stockpile sleep on the weekends to avoid being sleepy during the week. (True or False)

• I'm a safe driver so it doesn't matter if I'm sleepy. (True or False)

Answers

• FALSE. Studies have found a direct correlation between the numbers of hours a person works and their risk of being in a drowsy driving crash.

• FALSE. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, working the night shift increases a person's risk of being involved in drowsy driving crash by nearly six times.

• FALSE. Sleep-related crashes are most common in young people, who tend to stay up late, sleep too little, and drive at night.

• TRUE. Research has shown that drowsy-driving crashes tend to occur at night or in mid-afternoon, involve a single vehicle running off the roadway, lack any evidence of braking, and involve a young male driving alone.

• FALSE. Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person's airway collapses many times to halt breathing until the person briefly awakens. Studies indicate that persons with untreated sleep apnea have two to seven times more crashes than people without the disorder.

• FALSE. Things such as heavy meals, warm rooms, and long drives only unmask the presence of sleep deprivation or sleep debt; they do not cause sleepiness.

• FALSE. Sleep is not voluntary. If you're tired, you can fall asleep and never know it. When you're driving at 60 mph, and fall asleep for a few seconds (a microsleep), you can travel up to the length of a football field without any control of your vehicle.

• TRUE. According to studies, drivers in fatigue-related crashes were more likely to report problems sleeping prior to a crash than drivers in other non-sleep crashes.

• FALSE. An open window or music has no lasting effect on a person's ability to stay awake. In fact, they may mask the person's lack of alertness further.

• TRUE. If you are driving and your thoughts begin to wander, it is time to pull over and take a short nap, consume some caffeine, or stop driving for the day.

• FALSE. Sleep is not money. You can't store up sleep to borrow it later on. But, just as with money, you can go into debt.

• FALSE. The only safe driver is an alert driver. Even the safest drivers become confused and use poor judgment when they are sleepy. In addition, alcohol makes fatigue much worse. One drink has the same effect on a tired driver as four or five drinks for a well-rested person.

Fatigued driving is nothing to downplay. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

Don't be a statistic. Recognize the risks. Stay alert. Arrive alive.

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