Have you ever a fantasized about sitting in 2000 pound metal sled surrounded by 20 or 30 gallons of flammable liquid, while going head on into oncoming obstacles at 60 miles an hour, with your eyes closed. Over half of Americans experience this everyday. They get behind the wheel of an automobile without the proper sleep. Referred to as "the silent killer" because it is so often overlooked as the cause of an accident. The full effect of drowsy driving is not yet known because reporting is imprecise, police are not trained to detect sleep related crashes and there is no Breathalyzer test to determine whether someone was driving while dangerously drowsy.
Driving without the proper sleep has the same effect as driving under influence of drugs or alcohol. You not only put yourself at risk but everyone around you. You fight to maintain control of the vehicle while you attempt to arrive safely at your destination. In the United States one in five reported falling asleep at the wheel. You know that you are exhausted but at the moment you are robbed of common sense, and you sincerely believe you can drive on safely.
Everyone has commitments but we allow them to dictate our life pace, sometimes with devastating results, especially when we drive with inadequate rest. Common sense tells us that we are tired and need sleep, but is overridden by our desire to reach the destination. Lack of proper sleep is a main cause of mishaps on American highways and it shows no signs of decreasing as our lifestyles become more and more hurried.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes annually involve drowsiness and/or fatigue as a principal causal factor. You start the week off with little sleep and end the week exhausted, and the cycle begins again. You learn to tolerate your exhaustion and it becomes a habit and pretty soon it becomes a part of your everyday life.
When you are sleepy and trying to drive the outside world looks and sounds totally different than under normal conditions. The slightest sound is magnified a thousand times and the weakest light becomes a laser beam pointed directly at your eyes. You loose control of your most important cognitive functions and your reaction time is reduced significantly. Having small children or animals in the automobile further complicates the problem.
Perhaps this explains how you are driving in one lane and end up in another. It may further explain why people end up crashed into trees and ravines and do not understand how they got there. Those crashes result in an estimated 1,500 fatalities and 71,000 injuries each year, and an annual monetary loss of approximately $12.5 billion. Lets face it you can drive without proper sleep, but you significantly increase your chances of having an accident. Fortunately for most lack of sleep is a not a chronic problem. There are many temporary and some permanent solutions to this mayhem.
Stop driving or switching drivers is common method use by many drivers to ensure they get enough sleep. Another technique is to open the windows or turn on the air conditioning. Contrary to popular belief noise cannot eliminate the need for the proper sleep but it may keep you alert when you have decided to keep driving no matter the consequences. Listening to the radio or compact disc player may be a solution if the music doesnot relax you so much that you really do fall asleep.
Stopping to eat or drink may revitalize the body and give you the energy you need. Drinking caffeine may give you a temporary boost but this type of relief forces your body to act in an abnormal manner and sooner or later the effects wear off. Experts who have looked at the problem say the only safe way to combat drowsy driving is to pull over to a safe parking spot and take a 20-minute nap. Then drive to the closest safe resting spot such as a motel, friend's house and sleep. This is great advice but old habits are sometimes hard to break so you may not quit pushing the envelope over night.