Sleep Deprivation and Driving
By: Good2GoPublished: August 3, 2016
Most people are familiar with that goofy mood we sometimes call “the sleepy hahas.” It’s that feeling we get after staying up too late, when suddenly anything and everything becomes comical. However, sleep deprivation is no laughing matter. In fact, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates conservatively that each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.
With Americans working longer hours than ever, it comes as no surprise that sleep disorders are a dangerous reality quickly plaguing the country. Our sleeping habits are affected by numerous factors, like stress, eating habits, and light. Although we tend to believe the magic number of hours we need to sleep per night is between 6 and 8, the National Sleep Foundation actually recommends adults 18-25 sleep for up to 11 hours each night.
While some of us are cancelling our morning plans to stay in bed later, many others are baffled at those who have the time to sleep for 11 hours straight. But before you sacrifice quality sleeping time, consider some of the perilous affects sleep deprivation can have on one of those most important things most of us do on a daily basis – get behind the wheel and drive.
Sleep deprivation significantly reduces your reaction time. Think of all times someone quickly pulled out in front of you or cut you off, expecting you to hit the brakes. We can normally assess the situation quickly, giving us ample time to reduce speed and avoid an accident. If this were to happen while you’re sleep deprived, your reaction time will be slower, and it’s possible you won’t be able to stop in time.
Memory and Cognitive Impairment
A lack of sleep can disrupt your ability to think and process information. While this goes hand in hand with decreased alertness, cognitive impairment can affect ability to focus on performing visual tasks. When we are unable to think clearly, we are less capable of making good decisions and more likely to participate in hazardous activities like speeding.
It’s important to keep your eyes on the road while you’re driving since any distractions can be life threatening. If you’re driving at 55 mph, it only takes 4.6 seconds to drive the length of a football field. In that time, you could swerve into another lane, or rear-end another vehicle. Sleep deprivation can lead to a lack of focus, distracting you from driving safely.
Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to help prevent those who are sleep deprived from getting behind the wheel. The most obvious advice we can give is to avoid driving when you’re exhausted. If you know you’ll be working a 12-hour shift, ask a trusted friend or family member to pick you up from work instead of driving yourself.
Although it’s easier said than done, there are a few ways we can help ourselves get more quality sleep at night.
- Sleep in a cool, dark room free from disturbances
- Try to fall asleep and wake up around the same times daily
- Perform light exercise during the day
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine late into the evening
- Turn your phone or tablet off one hour before bedtime
Driving while sleep deprived is dangerous to you and others who are on the road. An Australian study showed that being awake for 18 hours produced impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours. We encourage all drivers to avoid any dangerous practices and help us make roads safer – but before you head out, make sure your insurance is up to date. Protect yourself affordably with Good2Go.com Auto Insurance. Click here to get your insurance quote today.