Stillwater News Press

November 22, 2012

Drowsy driving may lead to accidents

Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — During Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, many people will travel to visit relatives. This often means driving for hours without much rest. This can lead to disastrous results.

“Driving drowsy can have a significant impact on reaction time, vision impairment and lapses in overall judgment,” said AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai. “Most drivers underestimate the risks of drowsy driving and overestimate their ability to deal with it — that’s a dangerous combination.”

According to AAA data, drowsy driving is one of the leading contributors to traffic crashes, with one in six deadly crashes involving a drowsy driver.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Alice Collinsworth said collision reports contain two drowsy driving categories: sleepy and very tired. In Payne County in 2011, there were 15 collisions that involved sleepy drivers and eight that involved very tired drivers. None were fatal.

According to Collinsworth, statewide there were 12 fatal drowsy crashes resulting in 16 fatalities in 2011.

“If you are sleepy enough that you need coffee, fresh air or something to rejuvenate you, then you are already too tired,” Collinsworth said.

She said drivers should find a safe place to pull over and take a nap.

Short-term measures like coffee or pills won’t help in the long run.

“Even with caffeine you can fall asleep,” Collinsworth said.

She also said to take frequent breaks or have other drivers switch with you on long drives as lengthy stretches of highway can cause drowsiness.

Tips to avoid drowsy driving• Younger drivers are more likely to drive while drowsy.

• Men are more likely than women to report ever having fallen asleep while driving.

• Take a break every two hours or every 100 miles even if you are not tired.

• Travel with a companion and take turns driving. This makes you 50 percent less likely to be involved in a drowsy driving collision.

• Avoid heavy foods or medication that cause drowsiness or impairment.