Most drivers are well aware of the hazards of drinking and getting behind the wheel … and the dangers of distracted driving. But new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is pointing at another threat. Many motorists have probably zoned out or maybe even nodded off briefly, drifting out of their lane onto rumble strips or off of the pavement. AAA spokesperson Elizabeth Carey says drowsy-driving accidents are severely underreported.
“If you’re driving and you’re like, ‘wait a minute. I don’t really remember the past few miles I drove; I don’t even remember going through that red light or that stop sign,’ that’s a sign that you’re too tired to be behind the wheel. And especially if you’re drifting from your lane, or you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open; drivers should really travel at a time of day that they feel they’re most awake and avoid any medications that might make you more drowsy as well.”
They also recommend scheduling stops on longer trips, and not to count on coffee or music to keep you awake.
AAA RECOMMENDS THAT DRIVERS:
- Travel at times of the day when they are normally awake
- Avoid heavy foods
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
FOR LONGER TRIPS, DRIVERS SHOULD:
- Schedule a break every tow hours or every 100 miles
- Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving
- Do not underestimate the power of a quick nap at a rest stop
Federal highway officials say about 1.5% of accidents are caused by drowsy driving. But the new AAA study says it’s closer to 9.5%. Carey says that danger is mirrored in our state.
“If you take a look at the New York state numbers, AAA actually broke them down and the latest numbers from 2016 match the federal numbers that about 1.5% of all crashes are related to drowsy driving, but those are the crashes that were actually reported. There could be other crashes, drowsiness behind the wheel, that are never reported. Maybe someone goes off the road and never tells anyone about it. Maybe they only had a little fender bender with a tree, and they don’t report it.”
Carey says Onondaga County had the tenth most drowsy driving crashes of any county in the state in 2016. But remember, they say those numbers are far underreported. They’re making the research public to raise awareness.
“People think ‘I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m just a little tired, I’m not drinking, I’m not on drugs, and everything should be safe.’ But there are surveys and studies showing that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, so people really need to be aware of that,” Carey said.
AAA has an online tool called Roadwise Rx, that can tell you what medications or drug interactions can make a driver drowsy.