Fall back, get drowsy: Tips for driving safety
ODOT warns: Changing clocks can raise danger on roads
The Oregon Department of Transportation is reminding motorists that this weekend's clock adjustment may also require adjustments in sleeping patterns to ensure you don't get sleepy behind the wheel.
"Getting a good night's sleep is the best way to fend off drowsy driving," said Troy E. Costales, ODOT's Safety Division administrator. And getting a couple of good night's sleep in a row is even better. That's why safety advocates encourage people to plan ahead and begin "re-setting" their body clocks on Friday for the Sunday morning change.
In the Pacific Northwest, everyone will set their clocks back one hour sometime Sunday morning (officially, it occurs at 2 a.m.). While it may seem like people will get an extra hour of sleep, that's not always the case. Any change in a sleeping pattern that can cause tiredness.
In Oregon last year, seven people died in crashes involving a drowsy driver, and 788 people were injured. Across the country, 28 percent of American drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll, and more than half (54 percent) said they have driven while drowsy. That's a risk that could be fatal.
Watch for signs of drowsiness, and respond
If you experience any of the following, it's time to get off the road:
- Problems focusing, blinking frequently and/or having heavy eyelids.
- Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating and/or hitting rumble strips.
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven or missing exits or traffic signs.
- Trouble keeping your head up.
- Yawning repeatedly.
- Rolling down the windows or turning up the radio to "keep you awake."
Getting sleepy? Here's what to do
Find a safe place to pull over right away, such as a rest area or a store parking lot. Studies show a 15-20 minute nap can help restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and crashes. The National Sleep Foundation suggests drinking a caffeinated beverage, then taking a quick nap, and you'll get the benefits of both. Whatever you do, it's important to listen to your body and respond appropriately.
FIRST: Take steps to prevent drowsy driving
Here are some tips from the experts to prevent drowsy driving:
- Get a good night's sleep before you hit the road. Adequate sleep for most Americans means seven to nine hours.
- Going on a long drive? Use the buddy system – someone who is rested and awake for the journey and can take a turn behind the wheel or help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
- If your trip is several hundred miles, take a break every 100 miles or 1½ - 2 hours. Do something to refresh yourself, like eating something cold or frozen (avoid sugary snacks!) or going for a 10-minute walk.
- Avoid alcohol and monitor your medications. Many people unknowingly take prescription and over-the-counter drugs that contribute to drowsiness – being aware of your medications' side effects can help you better manage your driving.
- Consume caffeine. The equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours.
- Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
For more tips on how to "drive alert, arrive alive," visit www.drowsydriving.org.
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