Young Drivers More Apt to Driving Drowsy
Recent survey results published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety have shown that young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 are at the greatest risk for drowsy driving. Of those questioned in the study, one in seven young drivers admitted to not only driving tired, but falling asleep behind the wheel at least once over the past year, a rate considerably hiring than the overall rate of 1 in 10.
Though often overlooked, the dangers of drowsy driving are significant and should not be ignored. “Research shows that fatigue impairs safe driving, with many symptoms causing drivers to behave in ways similar to those who are intoxicated,” says Robert Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA. “[We] are drawing attention to this often overlooked crash risk that is a serious threat to everyone’s safety on the road.”
Tired driving significantly impairs your ability to make correct decisions behind the wheel, and also reduces reaction times. It can also harm vision, and influence drivers into taking major risks on the road with a high chance of causing an accident. Similar to survey results on distracted driving, the results of the AAA study showed that a large majority of those questioned, more than 80%, acknowledged the dangers of drowsy driving, though many admitted to doing it anyway. Nearly 30% even admitted to doing so within the last month.
Much of the trouble, according to AAA Foundation President Peter Kissinger, comes from the belief that the effects of tiredness can be overcome with increased effort, and young peoples’ desire to stay out late at night. “Unfortunately, most drivers underestimate the risks associated with drowsy driving and overestimate their ability to deal with it. That’s a dangerous combination.” Unlike impairment caused by drugs and alcohol, the effects of lack of sleep are commonly believed to be a sign of feebleness, easily pushed aside; not meriting serious attention to handle.
Corroborating the AAA’s findings is a study performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration two years prior, which showed that younger drivers were 78% more likely to be drowsy at the time of an accident than older drivers. According to their research, one in six fatal accidents involved a tired driving, making it one of the most dangerous behaviors on the road today.
For drivers looking to detect the onset of drowsy driving, common symptoms include difficultly keeping eyes open, yawning and rubbing of the eyes, wandering or disconnected thoughts, drifting in an out of lanes, missing highway exits or road signs, and trouble remembering the last few miles driven. If any of these effects are felt, it is important to look for a safe way off the road as quickly as possible. To prevent the possibility of falling asleep behind the wheel, be sure to get a full night’s sleep before taking a lengthy trip, avoid driving during your normal sleep hours when possible, take frequent breaks, and travel with a passenger who can keep you focused and who can take the wheel when you are too tired to go on.
AAA’s research results were released alongside the National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, which is designed to educate drivers on the potential dangers of driving tired. Though unsafe behaviors like impaired and distracted driving have long been the focus of nationwide awareness campaigns, little attention is given to drowsy driving. As such a strong component of thousands of accidents each year, it is important that drivers understand the dangers of drowsy driving and take the appropriate steps to avoid it, especially younger drivers.