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National Sleep Foundation's Drowsy Driving Prevention Week® Provides Tips to Prevent One in Six Traffic Fatalities


November 6, 2011

In recognition of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®, (November 6-12), the National Sleep Foundation is joining with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to educate drivers about sleep safety. The AAA Foundation released new data showing that 96% of Americans feel that it is unacceptable for someone to drive when they are so sleepy they have trouble keeping their eyes open; yet, about one-third of Americans admitted doing so in the past 30 days.

"People know that they shouldn't text or drink when they drive, and that's great," says David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. "However, many don't realize that driving while drowsy is also very dangerous. If you're so tired that you can hardly keep your eyes open, you could fall asleep for just a few seconds and not realize it. If that happens at 65 miles an hour, you could drive the length of a football field in an unconscious state."

The AAA Foundation estimates that about one in six deadly crashes involves a drowsy driver. The National Sleep Foundation's 2011 Sleep in America poll found that about one in ten 16 - 45 year old drivers report driving drowsy once or twice a week.

"We know that many people are tired, say they aren't sleeping well, and in this economy more people are working longer hours and multiple jobs," says Cloud. "It's vital for people to be able to assess when they're too sleepy to drive safely. The National Sleep Foundation wants to make sure that everyone knows what they can do to prevent a drowsy driving related crash. Knowing what to do could save your life."

Sleepiness can impair drivers by causing slower reaction times, vision impairment, lapses in judgment and delays in processing information. In fact, studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, the legal limit in all states. It is also possible to fall into a 3 - 4 second microsleep without realizing it.

"Drowsy driving is a major traffic safety problem that, unfortunately, is largely unrecognized," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "We need to change the culture so that drivers recognize the dangers, appreciate the consequences and most importantly, stop driving while sleepy."

Feeling sleepy? Stop driving if you exhibit these warning signs:
The following warning signs indicate that it's time to stop driving and find a safe place to pull over and address your condition.

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and/or heavy eyelids
  • Difficulty keeping reveries or daydreams at bay
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating and/or hitting rumble strips
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven
  • Missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Feeling restless, irritable, or aggressive.

Here's what you can do to prevent a fall-asleep crash:

  • Get a good night's sleep before you hit the road. You'll want to be alert for the drive, so be sure to get adequate sleep (seven to nine hours) the night before you go.
  • Don't be too rushed to arrive at your destination. Many drivers try to maximize the holiday weekend by driving at night or without stopping for breaks. It's better to allow the time to drive alert and arrive alive.
  • Use the buddy system. Just as you should not swim alone, avoid driving alone for long distances. A buddy who remains awake for the journey can take a turn behind the wheel and help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
  • Take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours. Do something to refresh yourself like getting a snack, switching drivers, or going for a run.
  • Take a nap - find a safe place to take a 15 to 20 minute nap, if you think you might fall asleep. Be cautious about excessive drowsiness after waking up.
  • Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness as a side-effect.
  • Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
  • Consume caffeine. The equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours

For more information about drowsy driving, visit the National Sleep Foundation's drowsy driving website at www.DrowsyDriving.org.

About Sleep Health Services at Saint Clare’s Health System
Saint Clare’s offers a Center for Sleep Medicine as well as a Center for Pediatric Sleep Medicine. The Center for Sleep Medicine at Saint Clare’s Hospital/Dover is northwest New Jersey’s leader in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. Accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and staffed by physicians who are board certified in sleep medicine, the Center provides advanced clinical care for patients with a wide variety of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, and more. The Center for Pediatric Sleep Medicine, located in Saint Clare’s Hospital/Denville at the Roberta C. Ferguson Pediatric Center, treats children ages 3 to 18 years of age for a range of conditions including sleep apnea, parasomnias, insomnia, and restless legs syndrome. To learn more about sleep health services at Saint Clare’s, please visit www.saintclares.org or call 1-866-STCLARE (1-866-782-5273).

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®
In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to save lives, the National Sleep Foundation is declaring November 6-12, 2011 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®. This annual campaign provides public education about the under-reported risks of driving while drowsy and countermeasures to improve safety on the road.

About the National Sleep Foundation
The National Sleep Foundation is dedicated to improving sleep health and safety through education, public awareness and advocacy. It is well-known for its annual Sleep in America poll. The Foundation is a charitable, educational and scientific not-for-profit organization located in Washington, DC. Its membership includes researchers and clinicians focused on sleep medicine, professionals in the health, medical and science fields, individuals, patients, families affected by drowsy driving and more than 900 healthcare facilities throughout North America. Please visit www.sleepfoundation.org for more information.

 
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