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Drowsy driving: Don't be asleep at the wheel

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Fri, Nov 6th 2020 09:30 am

AAA shares advice for Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

By AAA of Western and Central New York

Nov. 1-8 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, and AAA has advice for motorists to avoid the dangerous habit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 35% of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily. In a 2018 AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey, nearly all drivers (96%) say they view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behavior. However, 29% admitted to driving when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at some point.

The AAA Foundation also conducted in-depth drowsy driving research in the U.S. using footage of everyday drivers. It found that the percentage of crashes involving drowsiness is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates. In the 2018 study, researchers examined video of drivers’ faces in the three minutes leading up to a crash. Using a scientific measure linking the percentage of time a person’s eyes are closed to their level of drowsiness, the researchers determined 9.5% of all crashes and 10.8% of crashes resulting in significant property damage involved drowsiness. Federal estimates indicate drowsiness is a factor in only 1% to 2% of crashes.

The difficulty in detecting drowsiness following a crash makes drowsy driving one of the most underreported traffic safety issues.

Knowing the warning signs of drowsiness can help drivers avoid dozing off behind the wheel. The most common symptoms include:

√ Having trouble keeping your eyes open

√ Drifting from your lane

√ Not remembering the last few miles driven

Drivers however should not rely on their bodies to provide warning signs for drowsiness and should instead prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep before hitting the road. AAA recommends drivers:

√ Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake

√ Avoid heavy foods

√ Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment

For longer trips, drivers should:

√ Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles

√ Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving

Do not underestimate the power of a quick nap. Pulling into a rest stop and taking a quick catnap – at least 20 minutes and no more than 30 minutes of sleep – can help to keep you alert on the road.

The research included analysis of in-vehicle dashcam video from more than 700 crashes, confirming the danger of drowsy driving.

To help drivers determine if their medications may cause drowsiness, refer to AAA’s Roadwise Rx, a free and confidential online tool to see if your medication impacts safety behind the wheel.

As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 887,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

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