Sleep is important for overall health and optimal performance, and healthy sleep is essential for driving safety. Adults should sleep 7 or more hours daily for maximum alertness. Insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders increase the risk of drowsy driving. Common sleep problems that can increase sleepiness include obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia and shift work.
- Truck driving is a demanding job, and poor sleep increases your risk of drowsy driving.
- It is estimated that more than 20% of fatal motor vehicle accidents are caused by drowsy driving.
- Timing matters! Shift work can require you to be awake at a time when your body typically sleeps. Most accidents on the road occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
- The effect of drowsiness on driving ability is like the effect of alcohol.
- Talk to your board-certifed sleep medicine physician.
- Visit www.sleepeducation.org
Drowsiness behind the wheel is a serious hazard on our roadways. Being drowsy can impair driving in the same way as being drunk. When drowsy, you may have trouble:
- Paying attention
- Responding to road and traffic conditions
- Making quick decisions
Signs of drowsiness behind the wheel include yawning, head bobbing and heavy eyelids. You also may miss your exit, drift out of your lane, or fall asleep at a stop. Don’t ignore near misses! Drowsy driving accidents are usually destructive. Many drowsy drivers run oﬀ the road. It is also common for drowsy drivers to drift into oncoming trafc. These accidents tend to occur at high speeds. Too often, drowsy driving accidents result in death.
Make it a top priority to avoid driving while drowsy:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule and daily routine.
- Sleep 7 hours or more daily.
- Avoid driving during a time of day when you normally sleep.
- Avoid driving after getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep.
- Avoid driving after taking any medication that causes sleepiness
If you become sleepy while driving, you should:
- Pull off the road to a safe location.
- Take a brief nap lasting 10-20 minutes.
- Avoid longer naps, which can cause you to feel groggy.
- Use caffeine, which can give your alertness a brief boost.
- Avoid frequent use of caﬀeine, which will reduce its effect.
A DEADLY EXAMPLE
A semitractor-trailer failed to slow with trafc while entering a marked highway work zone near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The truck hit the rear of a car at an estimated speed of 78-82 mph. The impact started a crash sequence
that involved seven other vehicles and 18 people. A post-crash fire consumed one of the cars. Six people died because of this crash. At the time of the crash, the driver had been working for about 14.5 hours. An investigation revealed that the truck driver did not take rest breaks as required by hours-of-service regulations. His performance errors were likely the result of fatigue caused by severe sleep restriction.
- Make it a priority to sleep 7 hours or more daily.
- Refuse to drive when you feel drowsy.
- Pull off the road to a safe location if you feel sleepy behind the wheel.
- Talk to your doctor about any ongoing sleep problems.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: CONTENT DEVELOPED BY THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF SLEEP MEDICINE