Distracted driving is any activity which diverts a driver’s attention away from driving. A task that takes your focus off the road for even a split second is considered distracted driving. The most common examples include talking/texting on a cellphone, eating or drinking, using a GPS, adjusting the radio, putting on makeup, and talking to passengers.
While drowsy driving has become a large issue of its own, it is also considered another form of distracted driving because drivers who are tired do not have full attention on the task of driving. Drowsy driving can be the result of a lack of adequate sleep, the use of sedating medications, and untreated sleep disorders (i.e. sleep apnea). Consuming alcohol can also increase drowsiness for those who are already fatigued.
The dangers of driving without enough sleep are significant. According to the statistics, driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year. As a result of these crashes, 40,000 individuals are injured and 1,550 individuals are killed. Oftentimes, these accidents result in single-car crashes in which the driver drifts out of his lane and off the road.
But these statistics do not tell the whole story. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has acknowledged that drowsy driving is highly underreported as a cause of an accident. Additionally, more than a third of drivers have reported nodding off while driving at some point in their lives.
In regards to this topic, drivers generally share their knowledge on this topic with others but are not apt to take their own advice. Consequently, anyone can be at risk of driving drowsy. However, young men, shift workers, and individuals with untreated sleep apnea are the highest risk groups.
In addition to educating individuals, there are a number of different things we can do to help reduce instances of drowsy driving. For example, we can promote the use of shoulder rumble strips, which help alert a driver who is drifting off the road. Those who suffer from sleep apnea should seek medical treat to help increase their sleeping habits and decrease their likelihood of drowsiness. Also, employers can manage shift worker’s schedules and take measures to prevent employees from driving while tired. Finally, we can avoid getting behind the wheel when we are tired or have taken sedative medications.