Teens and Drowsy Driving
October 29, 2009
Does the morning alarm seem to come too early in the day? Do you catch yourself daydreaming or having trouble focusing throughout the day? Do you find yourself rubbing your eyes or yawning? You may be suffering from Sleep Deprivation.
Being sleep deprived has a cumulative effect. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep for teens to be fully rested and notes that other professionals recommend higher amounts. The less sleep you have, the more deprived you are and it continues to add up during the week.
Reduced amounts of rest affect judgment, performance, information processing, emotions, and reaction time. All factors which are heavily relied upon for everyday functions and especially important when operating a vehicle. The National Highway Safety Transportation Association (NHSTA) estimates falling asleep at the wheel is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 40,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities nationwide per year. They have identified young people as a high risk population for drowsy driving.
Teens typically have full schedules, academic and social pressures to balance. Their body clocks change during this developmental time, calling for them to stay up later at night and wanting to sleep in longer in the morning. When teens drive without sufficient amounts of sleep, they are even more vulnerable to the dangers teen drivers already face including:
- Distracted driving due to cell phones, texting, other passengers, adjusting music and eating or drinking
- Impulsive behavior, including reckless driving, tailgating and speeding
- Lack of consistent seat belt use
- Reduced visibility at dawn, dusk or night
Other risks that increase drowsiness include:
- Colds, viruses and the flu
- Many prescription and over the counter medications
- Sleep apnea
- Alcohol consumption
NHSTA has identified late night, late afternoon and morning hours between six and eight a.m. as the hours teens are most tired and in the most jeopardy. Getting enough rest and avoiding high risk behaviors at specific times help to prevent drowsy driving. Also consider asking a passenger to stay alert and share the driving responsibility.
How can you over come driving drowsy? The National Sleep Foundation has the following suggestions:
- Watch for the warning signs of fatigue
- Stop driving-pull off at the next exit, rest area or find a place to sleep for the night
- Take a nap-find a safe place to take a 15 to 20-minute nap
- Consume caffeine-the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours
- Try consuming caffeine before taking a short
Be safe and get some rest.
Learn more at the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). The NSF has established November 2-8 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.
Driver Education: Driving with a Cold or the Flu
October 5, 2009
With cold and flu season here, many drivers are hurrying to drug stores and pharmacies for tissues, hand sanitizer, and over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, fever, and body aches. Unfortunately, alleviating cold and flu symptoms won’t necessarily make them safer drivers.
Colds are characterized by sore throat, sneezing and runny nose, and coughing.
Although many people have little to no fever with colds, these effects can be debilitating. Aside from the distraction these symptoms cause, drivers are often irritable due to their degree of discomfort and drowsy because the symptoms make it difficult to sleep well. This collection of problems can mean that these drivers take chances they wouldn’t ordinarily take, such as turning left in front of oncoming traffic or running red traffic lights, in an effort to get home quickly.
Flu symptoms commonly include coughing and body aches, often with a high fever and chills. In addition to feeling ill-tempered and sleepy, these drivers may also suffer from disorientation and dizziness. Driving effects could include slower reaction time, poor coordination, and impaired judgment.
In an effort to continue their normal activities, some drivers choose to take over-the-counter medications to ease their cold or flu symptoms. However, these medications do not typically eliminate symptoms. They also wear off quickly and can have side effects that compromise the user’s ability to drive safely, such as:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Loss of muscle control and motor coordination
- Increased reaction time
- Jittery feelings and nervousness
It’s best to stay off the road when you have a cold or the flu. Seek support from family and friends by asking for a ride to the doctor’s office if you need to go and arranging carpools for your children; you can repay these favors when you’re feeling better. Getting plenty of rest is the best way for you to recover from the cold or flu quickly so you can safely get back on the road.