Wake up about the dangers of driver fatigue

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 21, 2016

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When it comes to traffic safety, experts are nodding in agreement over the importance of reminding drivers not to nod off while they’re on the road.

AAA Michigan brought attention to the dangers of drowsy driving in light of the March 13 start of daylight saving time. A University of Colorado Boulder analysis concluded that the springtime time switch correlates to a 5 to 7 percent increase in risk of a deadly car crash.

AAA reports that drowsy drivers are involved in about 21 percent of fatal crashes per year, and it can result in a lack of focus, lane drifting and driving off the road.

According to the agency’s statistics, men are reportedly twice as likely to crash due to sleep deprivation than women. Overall, 37 percent of drivers say they have fallen asleep while driving before, and 11 percent say they did it in the last year.

Susan Hiltz, AAA Michigan public affairs director, compared the dangers of drowsy driving to drunken driving. She described some of the reasons why many drivers tend to be sleep deprived.

“They have a lot of responsibility; people are at a faster pace,” she said. “We’re just concerned primarily with what (effect) it has on driving and the safety concerns that it has.”

Hiltz said that while drowsy driving can be a detriment on the road during any hour of the day, she believes that there is a higher risk at nighttime. 

“The evening is going to be higher risk because there is less light,” she said. 

The auto agency implores drivers to get sufficient sleep before driving, especially for major trips. It also recommends refraining from car trips while sleep deprived. An alert passenger can help inform a driver when it is time to stop or take a break.

Driving breaks should happen once every 100 miles or every two hours, according to AAA. If a motorist is really tired, a brief nap is also a good idea, and this can be done at a parking lot or rest area, the agency said. 

Kendall Wingrove, senior editor at the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, gave some national statistics on the ramifications of driving while tired. 

“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they conservatively estimate that nationwide, 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year,” he said. “That would be about 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12 billion in monetary losses.”

Wingrove also advised drivers to not drive if tired or if on medication that can cause drowsiness. 

“Don’t drink even a small amount of alcohol, especially if you’re sleepy,” he added.

Drivers also shouldn’t drive at times when they normally would be sleeping, and they shouldn’t rely on the radio, an open window or other tricks to keep them awake, he said.

Learn more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.michigan.aaa.com.

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