Hectic schedules, intense work days, and a stressful home life can all get in the way of getting a full night’s rest. With 6,400 people losing their lives in fatigue-related car accidents each year, drowsy driving needs to be addressed. Drowsy driving takes a heavy societal cost with certain groups at higher risk. You can take action to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming involved in a preventable accident.
The 328,000 fatigue-related accidents each year not only take a high personal cost on those involved but a big societal cost as well. Medical and insurance costs are the expenses we think of most frequently, but administrative, first responders, and lost wages can push the yearly societal expense well over $109 billion.
These types of accidents often cause neck, back, or head injuries that leave victims incapacitated for an extended period of time. Some may never return to regular employment or need long-term medical care. That’s a heavy price for too many have to pay.
Who’s at Risk?
Anyone can end up driving while drowsy, but there are some groups more at risk than others. If you find yourself in one of these groups, we’ve included some suggestions on how to get better rest.
- Commercial Vehicle Drivers: Commercial drivers put in long hours with few breaks. While there are regulations in place to try to prevent drowsy driving, many of these drivers put in a 70-hour work week, which pushes them past their physical limits. Tight deadlines and pay per mile work causes many drivers and sometimes their companies to ignore regulations.
- Business Travelers: The jet lag that comes from changing time zones leaves many business travelers behind on their sleep. Early morning and late night flights, in particular, put these travelers at risk for accidents. It’s better to call a cab or take a shuttle than risk getting behind the wheel when you’re too tired to drive.
- Swing Shift Workers: Swing shift workers find themselves fighting their own circadian rhythms. After a full shift, these workers feel the pull of not only a long work day but a body that’s been trying to fall asleep for hours.
- Teenagers: While teens are better able to resist fatigue than adults for a time, once they do hit their limit, they fall asleep faster than adults. Inexperience behind the wheel and their growing bodies put them at high risk for drowsy driving.
Make a Change for Better Sleep and Driving
Adults need a full seven to eight hours of sleep while teens need as much as nine. To counteract stress and work schedules, sometimes you have to make a big effort to get a good night’s rest.
- Start Out Right: Create the right conditions in your bedroom. Dim the lights, quiet any sound, and make sure you have a supportive mattress that caters to your preferred sleep position. Keep your room at a cool 60-68 degrees for optimum sleep conditions.
- Give Yourself Time for the Right Amount of Sleep: Not only should you go to bed at the same time every day, but you should also make sure to plan for a full seven hours of sleep. Try to get up at the same time, even on weekends, to keep your body in sync.
- Eat Smart: Avoid stimulants at least four hours before bedtime. A light, healthy dinner eaten a few hours before bed will help you fall asleep faster. If you need a snack to tide you over until morning, consider sleep-inducing foods like dairy or bananas, which promote melatonin production.