Driving Dangerously by Driving Drowsy
"Two cups of coffee can increase short-term alertness, but it's no
substitute for proper sleep," she says. Remember that it takes about 30
minutes for the effects of caffeine to enter the bloodstream.
Recognizing warning signs of sleepiness among drivers also is important,
Britz tells WebMD. They include difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open;
trouble keeping your head up; yawning repeatedly; wandering, disconnected
thoughts or day dreaming; feeling restless or irritable; trouble remembering
the last few miles driven; drifting from your lane or hitting a rumble strip;
tailgating; and missing traffic signs or exits, she says.
As more attention is paid to the dangers of drowsy driving, some states are
including information about the dangers of it in their driver education
programs. Other preventive measures on the horizon include focusing a public
awareness campaign on the use of shoulder rumble strips as an effective
countermeasure to drowsy driving.
Rumble strips are raised or grooved patterns on the shoulders of highways to
alert drivers that they have veered off the road. When tires pass over them,
they produce a sudden rumbling sound and cause the vehicle to vibrate. Some
research suggests that rumble strips can decrease risk of crashes by as much as
70%. The public awareness campaign will focus on alerting drivers who veer onto
rumble strips that they should take it as a warning that they are too tired to
For more information on drowsy driving, contact the National Sleep
A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation
found that half of U.S. adults admit to driving drowsy and nearly a fifth have
fallen asleep at the wheel.
Safety officials attribute at least 100,000
crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths each year to drivers falling asleep.
There may be a larger toll due to sleep, but it's not usually investigated at
Those particularly at risk of being sleepy
drivers are young people (especially males) between ages 18 and 25, shift
workers, people with sleep disorders, and those who drive
Experts recommend people recognize when they
are tired and not drive. Before long drives, people should get enough sleep,
schedule rest stops every two hours, and change drivers frequently. Also, look
out for medicines that cause drowsiness.