Woodward, Okla. —
OKLAHOMA CITY - AAA Oklahoma wants drivers to be aware that drowsy driving can lead to someone being asleep - permanently. The organization is recognizing National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week through Nov. 18
"The effects of drowsy driving are similar to those occurring with alcohol intoxication," said Chuck Mai, AAA Oklahoma's vice president-public affairs. "Reaction time suffers, clouded vision happens and a lapse in overall judgement takes place."
He said drivers underestimate the risks of driving drowsy and overestimate their ability to deal with it.
"That's a dangerous combination," said Mai.
DANGER UNDERSTOOD, BUT OFTEN IGNORED
Mai said where drowsy driving is concerned, motorists often understand the danger but do it anyway.
"Eight out of 10 persons surveyed viewed other drivers operating a vehicle while drowsy as a serious threat to their safety, yet 30 percent of those questioned admitted to doing it within the last 30 days," he said. "These people said they were so tired that they struggled to keep their eyes open."
Mai said younger drivers are more likely to drive while drowsy - 1 in 7 for drivers age 16 to 24 compared to 1 in 10 for all licensed drivers.
And men (52 percent) were more likely than women (30 percent) to admit they had fallen asleep, AAA's research showed.
The AAA Foundation has measured nationally that 1 in 6 deadly crashes involve a sleepy driver.
DISTRACTIONS ACCOMPANY SLEEPINESS, TROOPER SAYS
Trooper Steve Nightengale, Oklahoma Highway Patrol liaison with the Oklahoma Highway Traffic Safety Office, said he thinks the 1 in 6 figure is probably accurate for the state.
But he said there's an equally serious problem ttaking lives on state roads, and he's seeing it more often - distracted driving.
"Talking on the cell phone, sending text messages, reading or even putting on makeup while driving causes wrecks," Nightengale said. "Adjusting the radio or tampering with a GPS device also causes people to lose control."
He said when there are no causes able to be identified for someone being killed in a crash, investigators must go back as long as 24 hours before the incident to see what the person had been doing.
"They may have worked a long, or all-night, shift, and have been exceptionally tired as a result," Nightengale said.
Those who survive major wrecks are often very candid about the fact that they may have been drowsy when the crash occurred, he said.
"Most of the time, they're pretty honest," the trooper said.
AVOIDING DROWSY DRIVING
Mai said AAA has tips to help eliminate drowsy driving as a factor in crashes.
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep prior to embarking on a trip.
- Travel when you're normally awake anyway.
- Take a break every 2 hours or 100 miles, "even if you're not feeling tired," Mai said.
- Have somebody go with you and take turns at the wheel. He said AAA data shows drivers with a passenger who shared driving duty were 50 percent less likely to be involved in a drowsy driving-related wreck.
- Avoid a heavy meal, which can make you sleepy, or medications that may cause drowsiness.
"And don't rely on caffeine to stay awake." Mai said, noting that not everyone reacts the same way to caffeine stimulation, and the effects often happen at varying times.
"Caffeine doesn't replace sleep," he said.
Find out more about the AAA Foundation's efforts to combat drowsy driving by going to www.AAAFoundation.org, or contact Mai at (405) 753-8040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.