Drowsy Driving Prevention

Recently, I conducted a podcast for Summit Medical Group, sponsored by RadioMD, on Drowsy Driving Prevention. This podcast will be posted when it is accessible.

Oftentimes, drivers do not realize how sleepy they turn to be. When they are sleepy, their reactions, skills, and attention decrease. They cause accidents with the worst outcomes. According to the official studies, drowsiness can cause:

  • A slower reaction
  • Lowered judgment and vision
  • Decrease in attention to important signs, any road changes, actions of other vehicles, people on the road, etc.
  • Lowered alertness, which doesn’t allow the driver to see an obstacle and avoid a crash
  • Vulnerability to mood swings and aggressive behavior
  • Problems with understanding data, thinking, and short-term memory
  • Falling asleep when you drive the vehicle

What are the warning signs of sleeping or fatigue?

  • Turning up the radio or rolling down the window
  • Problems with accessing time and thinking
  • Drifting or hitting the rubble strip on the side of the road
  • Forgetting your route
  • Lowered performance, motivation, attention, etc.
  • A low ability to keep your eyes on the road
  • Daydreaming
  • Unreasonable thoughts
  • Feeling as if you are somewhere else
  • Frequent yawning or rubbing your eyes
  • Drifting from your lane, missing signs, exits, etc.
  • Constant unpleasant feelings, such as restlessness, irritability, or aggressiveness

Who is at the risk of going sleepy?

  • Teenagers
  • Shift workers
  • Commercial drivers
  • People with sleep disorders that cannot be treated
  • Business travelers
  • Long-distance drivers without regular rest breaks
  • Driving when the night is deep with no rests
  • Working more than 60 hours during the week
  • Having more than 1 job with frequent work shifts
  • Drinking any amount of alcohol
  • Taking any kinds of forbidden drugs
  • Driving alone;
  • Driving on a long, dark, boring, or always the same road
  • Taking preparations or any other products with a sedative effect
  • Jet lag
  • Traveling through several time zones during 1 or 2 days

What can be done to reduce the potential risk?

  • Prioritize sleep when adults sleep about 7–9 hours and teenagers 8.5–95 hours
  • Take regular breaks. These could be every 100 miles or 2 hours
  • Travel with a companion to share the driving
  • Avoid any amounts of alcohol and sedating preparations. Always read all labels or ask a healthcare provider about their effects.

What are the countermeasures?

  • Check signs of fatigue regularly.
  • Stop driving when you feel sleepy or dizzy! Take the nearest exit or rest area.
  • Consume caffeine — 135 mg of caffeine in one cup of coffee
  • Consume caffeine before you take a short nap to have a rest and increase your alertness
  • Let someone else drive when you are sleepy

Sleep apnea. What is it?

  • This is a medical state when a person stops breathing because the throat narrows or closes. If you have central sleep apnea, you stop breathing because your cerebrum (brain) does not send the right signals to the muscles, which are answerable for breathing. Most of the time, we usually refer to obstructive sleep apnea.
  • People who suffer from sleep apnea do not commonly realize they stop breathing when they are sleeping. They may wake up full of fear or gasping for breath. Other people who sleep near them say that they snore.
  • The major symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring, fatigue, and daytime sleepiness. People with this condition may also feel morning headaches, sore throat, and troubled thinking or memorizing things.
  • There is testing available for sleep apnea. It can be done even at home, but it is better to do it in a sleep lab. The right machines and technology help to check your heartbeat, breathing, and other body functions. The whole night must be spent in the lab.
  • Among the prevention measures that may help with sleep apnea involve staying off your back when sleeping, losing weight, and avoiding alcohol
  • The most effective treatment for this condition is a device that keeps your airway open while you sleep, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). You have to wear a face mask at night as it helps to breathe properly. At times, medics prescribe oral appliances or mandibular advancement can be performed to keep the airway open
  • People with sleep apnea are commonly very tired and are not focused enough. They are at risk for drowsy driving, as well as vulnerable to such serious conditions as blood pressure deviations and heart disease