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Combating Drowsy Driving

Thursday, Jul. 24th 2014

Northland Injury Law is  joining the fight in helping drivers become aware of the dangers of drowsy driving. As personal injury attorneys in North Kansas City we have represented many clients who have been affected by drowsy driving, and we know firsthand the importance of creating an awareness of this issue to better driver safety.

Drivers are endangering their lives by using ineffective tactics to combat sleepiness behind the wheel, according to a new survey by automotive marketing company DMEautomotive.

More survey respondents say they’re more likely to open windows, blast music, turn up the air conditioning or pull over to exercise or stretch than do what safety experts recommend: pull over and take a nap.

About 42% of nearly 2,000 motorists surveyed they say open a window or sun roof to stay awake while driving; 35% say they pull over to exercise or stretch; 35% listen to loud music; and 25% turn up the air conditioning.

“Drowsy driving is the culprit behind more than 100,000 U.S. accidents each year, and 16.5% of deadly ones,” says Mike Martinez, DMEautomotive’s chief marketing officer. “This survey about the ineffective and sometimes wacky things Americans do to fight sleepiness at the wheel should be a real wake-up call.”

The survey was done by e-mail in May, and 1,982 motorists who had a vehicle serviced at a dealership or repair shop within the past year completed it.

Other ineffective tactics cited by 10%-21% of respondents are eating, singing, listening to talk radio, talking to or slapping oneself, stretching in the car and smoking. Eight percent say they splash water on their face or neck.

Just 23% say they pull over and take a nap. The most popular method to stay awake — cited by 53% of respondents — is drinking a caffeinated beverage.

Caffeine can be an effective often temporary drowsy-driving fighter, but shouldn’t replace napping, Martinez says.

It can take 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream, and caffeinated drivers can experience “micro-sleeps,” falling asleep for a few seconds, he says.

Scientific research shows that an effective tactic to combat drowsy driving is a 30-minute nap, followed by drinking one to two cups of strong coffee, Martinez says.

Another recommended way to combat sleepiness — for drivers who are not traveling solo — is to let someone else who is rested drive.

Nearly 42% of respondents says they switch drivers to combat sleepy driving.

Younger drivers — under age 35 — are “significantly more likely to do ineffective things” to fight drowsy driving, Martinez says.

Forty-three percent of young drivers who responded to the survey say they listen to loud music to fight sleepiness. More than 30% say they eat or sing to combat drowsiness.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes annually, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths.

“As tragic as these numbers are, they only tell a portion of the story,” NHTSA says. “It is widely recognized that drowsy driving is underreported as a cause of crashes.”

A fatal crash last month involving comedian Tracy Morgan may show the danger of sleepy driving, Martinez says.

Comedian James McNair, known as Jimmy Mack, was killed June 7 on the New Jersey Turnpike in Morgan’s limousine van. Morgan suffered a broken leg and broken ribs, and three other passengers in the limo were injured.

Truck driver Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Ga., pleaded not guilty to death by auto and assault by auto charges. A criminal complaint accuses him of not sleeping for more than 24 hours prior to the crash.

Most Americans, Martinez says, “have had the dangers of drunk driving and texting while driving drilled into them, but they remain asleep about the dangers of drowsy driving.”

Drivers should “heed their sleepiness behind the wheel,” he says, and realize there are only three proven ways to fight drowsy driving: Get proper sleep before the trip, pull over for a nap or switch to a rested driver.”

The New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee says, “The best remedy for avoiding drowsy driving is getting enough sleep.” That means seven to nine hours of “good quality sleep” for most adults, the committee says.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident, call our accident attorneys at 816-400-4878 for a free consultation.  We are located in the Northland.  We have handled numerous accident injuries caused by drowsy drivers.  Let our experience help you or someone you know recover.

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