Q. My husband works long days and I worry about him driving home tired. What are his risks?
A. Studies have shown that drowsiness effects result in slower reaction times, impaired judgment and vision, decline in attention to important signs, road changes, and the actions of other vehicles, decreased alertness, which can prevent someone from seeing an obstacle and avoiding a crash, increased moodiness and aggressive behavior, problems with processing information and short-term memory, microsleeping, which are brief two-thirds of a second sleep episodes. Drowsy driving claims many lives and injures thousands of Americans each year. It accounts for one out of six auto fatalities and is the number one killer of our teenagers nationwide. Statistics have shown that most accidents occur between midnight and 8:00 a.m. and the second higher risk time period for drowsy driving accidents occurs between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Warning signs to look for when driving would be having to turn up the radio, rolling down the window, trouble focusing and keeping your eyes open or your head up, daydreaming, wandering thoughts, yawning, rubbing your eyes, drifting from your lane, tailgating, missing signs on the road or your exits, and feeling irritable or aggressive. To combat drowsy driving, make sure to watch for your warning signs of tiredness and fatigue and stop driving – find a rest area, take a 15-20 minute nap, consume caffeine, you can also try consuming caffeine before taking a short nap to get the benefits of both, drive with a passenger, who can take over the driving, avoid alcohol and sedating medications. Drowsy driving is a national public health and safety problem. Education and public awareness are key to keeping our families and loved ones safe when on the road. Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep and if your kids or yourself are having difficulties sleeping recurrently, make sure to talk with your primary physician, as there may be an underlying sleep disorder that requires a sleep study or a referral to a sleep specialist.