Lemme Sleep When I am at the Wheel

Only God can save you and the driver if you allow the driver to do so. But two out of every five drivers (41 percent) admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, with one in ten saying they’ve done so in the past year, according to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study.

More than a quarter of those surveyed admitted they drove despite being so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open in the previous month.

Eighty-five percent of drivers surveyed felt it was “completely unacceptable” for someone to drive if they are so tired they are having trouble keeping their eyes open. 

Unfortunately, drivers may not always be aware of the effects of fatigue resulting from a lack of sleep.

It is not only sleep, there are other factors also that can cause road accidents. Take this case, for example. While drivers across Europe think that tires are very important to road safety, many of them don’t know the importance of picking the right tires for the right conditions, or of undertaking basic checks and maintenance, according to a new survey from Goodyear Dunlop. (Read: European Drivers Clueless about Road Safety)

A new application aims to address distracted driving problem with eyes- and hands-free text messaging on mobile phones. Boston-based AdelaVoice has launched StartTalking, claimed to be the world’s first smartphone application that lets motorists keep their eyes on the road and hands upon the wheel. (Read: Talk to Your Mobile for Texting While Driving)

It is a known fact that texting drivers of any age can create a hazard on the roads. A recent campaign targets young, inexperienced motorists who also are generally the most prolific users of wireless text messaging.

Verizon Wireless and the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) have launched the “Danger Thumbs” campaign to make the state’s roads safer by urging young Florida drivers to stop texting on their wireless phones when behind the wheel. (Read: Danger Thumbs Campaign to Target Texting Drivers)

A new survey examined habits of people driving with canine companions and possible distractions. It found that drivers not only love to bring Fido along, but they also often engage in risky behaviors when man’s best friend is along for the ride. (Read: Dog Distractions for Drivers Can be Fatal)

Meanwhile, in a major development related to road safety, automaker Lexus is working on an idea of a future car that will never have an accident.

The company is using an advanced driving simulator to enable its engineers to design technology that will help make driving safer. (Read: Can there be a No-Accident Car?)

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In recognition of this week’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, hosted by the National Sleep Foundation, AAA wants all drivers to recognize the seriousness of this dangerous, yet underestimated, driving practice.

“When you are behind the wheel of a car, being sleepy is very dangerous. Sleepiness decreases awareness, slows reaction time, and impairs judgment, just like drugs or alcohol, contributing to the possibility of a crash,” said AAA Foundation president and CEO Peter Kissinger.

“We need to change the culture so that not only will drivers recognize the dangers of driving while drowsy but will stop doing it.”

A new analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data estimates that about one in six (16.5 percent) deadly crashes, one in eight crashes resulting in occupant hospitalization and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed involve a driver who is drowsy.

These percentages are substantially higher than most previous estimates, suggesting that the contribution of drowsy driving to motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths has not been fully appreciated, says AAA Foundation.

To remain alert and avoid drowsiness, AAA suggests:

  • Getting plenty of sleep (at least six hours) the night before a long trip;
  • Scheduling a break every two hours or every 100 miles;
  • Traveling at times when you are normally awake, and staying overnight rather than driving straight through; and
  • Stop driving if you become sleepy; someone who is tired could fall asleep at any time.

Symptoms of sleepiness include but are not limited to:

  • Having trouble keeping your eyes open and focused;
  • The inability to keep your head up;
  • Daydreaming or having wandering, disconnected thoughts; and
  • Drifting from your lane or off the road, or tailgating.

These study findings, released today (Nov. 8), are part of the AAA Foundation’s third annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationally-representative survey conducted by Abt SRBI Inc.

The Index was a telephone survey of 2,000 U.S. residents ages 16 and older conducted from May 11, 2010 through June 7, 2010.

Photo courtesy: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

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