Dwt: Driving While Tired

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Drowsy driving causes100,000 car accidents each year; 71,000 people are injured and 1,500 people die ("Sleepdex - Resources for Better Sleep"). Driving while tired is a serious and rising problem that is not recognized by many people. But how can people become aware of it and how can we prevent it? But overall what are the dangers of driving while tired?

A study done in Australia showed that being awake for 18 hours resulted in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of .05, and .10 after 24 hours; .08 is considered legally drunk. According to a poll done in 2002 by the National Sleep Foundation, men are more likely to drive drowsy than women and are almost twice as likely to fall asleep while driving. In that same poll, adults with children in the household are more likely to drive while tired that those without children ("DrowsyDriving.org").

A study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a crash caused by drowsy driving as those sleeping eight hours or more. People sleeping less than five hours increased their risk four to five times. A poll in 2000 done by the National Sleep Foundation showed that about one in five drivers said they pull over to take a nap while driving drowsy. Older adults are more likely to pull over to take a nap than younger drivers, who are least likely to pull over and nap. The same poll showed that people tend to fall asleep more on a high-speed, long, boring, rural highway. However, people who live in urban areas are more likely to fall asleep than people in rural or suburban areas (“DrowsyDriving.org”).

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety states the warning signs of drowsy driving: * The inability to recall the last few miles traveled;
* Having disconnected or wandering thoughts;
* Having difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open;
* Feeling as though your head is very heavy;
* Drifting out of your driving lane, perhaps driving on the rumble strips; * Yawning repeatedly;
* Accidentally tailgating other vehicles;
* Missing traffic signs or exits.
Jesse James, currently a student at St. Cloud State, was driving home from northern Minnesota one early June morning this year with his cousin. With only about five or six hours of sleep the night before, Jesse fell asleep about 30 minutes into the drive. If it was not for the rumble strips on the side of the road and his cousin in the car, Jesse and his cousin might not be around today. “I was happy he was with me! . . . I was pretty freaked out and stopped at the nearest gas station to get an energy drink and some coffee,” Jesse had said about his experience (James and Lockwood).

Looking at the tips from the National Sleep Foundation (given later), Jesse did not have a good night’s sleep. He only had five to six hours the night before and not the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep for adults. Jesse may have had his cousin in the car with him but he was tired as well. And Jesse has also said that he likes to sleep in until 10 on most days. He was driving at a time that he would normally be sleeping. Jesse, like many other people, did not follow the tips on how not to drive drowsy. He could have become the next newspaper headline or statistic (James and Lockwood).

Gabrielle’s last words to her family were, “Don’t worry about me, Mom. I can tell when I’m getting too sleepy to drive. If I start to get too tired or think I might fall asleep, I’ll stop at a rest stop. Don’t worry; I won’t let myself doze off. Love you! I’ll call you when I get to school.” She thought she could handle the 12-hour drive from her home near Philadelphia back to college in central Michigan after a busy spring break. Gabrielle was alert and responsive as she started her drive that Sunday morning. She entered a long, lonely stretch of highway only two hours later. Soon, she started to yawn and daydream. She turned...
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