Sleep-deprived motorists pose a grave danger on Virginia roads and across America. The week of November 2-8 marks the third annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, a national campaign to educate drivers about the dangers of driving while sleepy. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), as many as two million drivers in the U.S. have had a car crash or a near crash due to drowsiness in the past year.
The NSF is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting sleep-related education, research, and advocacy.
According to the NSF, warning signs of sleepiness behind the wheel include the following:
- Turning up the radio or rolling down the window
- Impaired reaction time and judgment
- Decreased performance, vigilance and motivation
- Trouble focusing, keeping your eyes open or your head up
- Daydreaming and wandering thoughts
- Yawning or rubbing your eyes repeatedly
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating and missing signs or exits
- Feeling restless, irritable, or aggressive
Raquel Rothe, owner of Sleep EZ Diagnostic Center in Salem, Virginia, cautions that “people who drive when they are tired put their lives at risk, as well as the lives of others on the road.” She adds that “fatigue can impair awareness and slow reaction time, similar to the effects of driving while intoxicated.”
In fact, studies apparently show that being awake for 18 hours produces impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05% and 0.10%—more than legally drunk—after 24 hours of being awake, according to the NSF.
“Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep for optimal health and performance. Adequate sleep is key to staying attentive and vigilant when performing tasks – and especially when driving a car or truck,” Rothe explains. She offers the following tips to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel:
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Don’t drive at times you would normally be sleeping
- Avoid alcohol before a road trip and talk with your healthcare provider about side effects of medications you are taking to ensure they don’t cause fatigue
- During road trips, pull over and take a break every two hours
- If you feel tired, stop at the next rest area or safe place and take a nap
- Avoid driving long distances alone. A passenger can take turns driving and help identify the warning signs of fatigue
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 100,000 police reported crashes each year are caused primarily by drowsy driving and that such crashes result in more than 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in losses.
Virginia is by no means immune from this nationwide problem. Accidents brought about by drivers who are impaired in some way or are driving recklessly unfortunately cause serious injuries and death as well as property damage every day across the state of Virginia.
If you–or someone you love–have been injured in an automobile accident in Virginia, do not hesitate to get in touch with the Personal Injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, P.C., Toll Free 877-544-5323, for a no-obligation consultation