AAA: Drowsy Driving As Bad As Drunken Driving

Monday, November 8th 2010, 12:24 pm
By: News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed more than 16 percent of deadly crashes in a 10-year period involved a driver who was drowsy.

Researchers studied the crash data from 1998 to 2008. They also found drowsy driving was involved in about 12 percent of crashes that led to hospitalization, and more than seven percent of crashes in which a vehicle had to be towed. Experts said many people just don't realize when they're too tired to drive.

"Many of us tend to underestimate the risks involved with driving when we're tired and we tend to overestimate our ability to drive safely in that condition," said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. "There are simple, effective steps we can take to prevent tragedy on the road but unfortunately, too many of us have adopted the 'I'm sleepy, but I can make it' mentality."

Eighty-five percent of drivers in a survey conducted by AAA said it was "completely unacceptable" for someone to drive if they are so tired they are having trouble keeping their eyes open. But the AAA survey also found two out of every five drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point. One in 10 said they'd done so in the past year.

"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 our culture so that not only will drivers recognize the dangers of driving while drowsy but will stop doing it."

AAA and the National Sleep Foundation are highlighting the dangers of driving while tired during Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. They offered these tips for staying alert:

  • Get plenty of sleep (at least six hours) the night before a long trip
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
  • Travel at times when you are normally awake, and stay overnight rather than drive straight through
  • Pull over and stop if you become sleepy; someone who is tired is at risk of falling asleep at any time

AAA advised drivers to be aware of the symptoms of sleepiness which include:

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