Sadly, every year Oregon loses citizens to suspected or confirmed incidences of drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Sometimes the loss of life is only to the driver. All too often the loss of life is to a child passenger, or passing motorist who had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The key to preventing these unnecessary collisions is to never drive drowsy.
In Oregon over the last five years, 54 people died in crashes involving a drowsy driver; last year alone 10 people died and 832 were injured.
Across the country, 28 percent of American drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll, and more than half (54 percent) said they have driving while drowsy.
Watch for signs of drowsiness, and respond
If you experience any of the following, it’s time to get off the road:
· Problems focusing, blinking frequently and/or having heavy eyelids.
· Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating and/or hitting rumble strips.
· Trouble remembering the last few miles driven or missing exits or traffic signs.
· Trouble keeping your head up.
· Yawning repeatedly.
· Rolling down the windows or turning up the radio to “keep you awake.”
Getting sleepy? Here’s what to do
Find a safe place to pull over right away, such as a rest area or a store parking lot. Studies show a 15-20 minute nap can help restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and crashes. The National Sleep Foundation suggests drinking a caffeinated beverage, then taking a quick nap, and you’ll get the benefits of both. Whatever you do, it’s important to listen to your body and respond appropriately.
FIRST: Take steps to prevent drowsy driving
Here are some tips from the experts to prevent drowsy driving:
· Get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road. Adequate sleep for most Americans means seven to nine hours.
· Going on a long drive? Use the buddy system – someone who is rested and awake for the journey and can take a turn behind the wheel or help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
· If your trip is several hundred miles, take a break every 100 miles or 1½ - 2 hours. Do something to refresh yourself, like going for a 10-minute walk or eating something cold or frozen (avoid sugary snacks!).
· Avoid alcohol and monitor your medications. Many people unknowingly take prescription and over-the-counter drugs that contribute to drowsiness – being aware of your medications’ side effects can help you better manage your driving.
· Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
SECOND: If you get drowsy behind the wheel, immediately find a safe place to pull over, so you can refresh and/or rest.
· Consume caffeine. The equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours.
· Find a rest area, store parking lot, school or church parking lot and take a 20 minute nap, which is enough for most adults to be rest and re-charged.