More threads by Daniel E.

Daniel E.
5 things you didn't know about driving while drowsy

December 25, 2007

1. Holiday drivers: People often hit the road during the holidays, which also are one of the most sleep-deprived times of the year. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigued drivers contribute to about 100,000 highway crashes, causing 71,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths each year. Like drugs and alcohol, sleepiness contributes to collisions because it slows reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgment.

2. Sloppy tired: The consequences of even one to two hours of sleep loss nightly may cause human error and accidents. The potential risks of driving while sleepy are at least as dangerous as the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the Stanford Sleep Disorders and Research Center.

3. A point for coffee: A study in France recently found that drinking caffeinated coffee is a better option than a short nap for drowsy drivers. The coffee lowered risk for drowsy drivers by 89 percent, while the nap only reduced line crossings by 23 percent. (Researchers noted the best choice is to get off the road entirely and get a full night's sleep.)

4. How to stay awake: Get a good night's rest (seven to nine hours), avoid medications that make you drowsy, avoid drinking alcohol, take regular breaks on long drives (stop every 100 miles or so) and don't drive alone.

5. Ambien alert: Ambien, the nation's bestselling prescription sleeping pill, is showing up with regularity as a factor in traffic arrests, sometimes involving drivers who later say they were sleep-driving and have no memory of taking the wheel after taking the drug. In some state toxicology labs, Ambien makes the top 10 list of drugs found in impaired drivers, according to a report at last year's meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
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