Be on top of your game as a driver

January 13, 2011 

The traffic on our local roads is once again at or near its peak. You have to be at your best to avoid accidents. One simple thing we can all do is to not drive if we are sleepy or over tired. Driving while drowsy is an unnecessary risk you shouldn’t take. Sleep deprivation has become widespread as people try to squeeze more and more activities into each day. One consequence is more vehicle crashes attributed partly or wholly to sleepiness.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 1 million crashes a year are thought to occur because of driver inattention or lapses and fatigue makes such inattention more likely. In a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 57 percent of those interviewed said they had driven while drowsy and 23 percent admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel.

These types of accidents can happen even during the daytime.

The agency reports that sleep-induced crashes typically involve a driver who is alone and driving late at night or in mid-afternoon on a high-speed road so the crash is more likely to be serious. Most of the time, it’s a single-car crash because the vehicle leaves the roadway.

Here are some helpful points that you should consider. Leave the driving to those who are wide awake. In other words, many of us may be susceptible to driving while sleepy, but there are some things we can do to avoid doing so.

The National Sleep Foundation and other experts suggest:

n Getting a good night’s sleep before starting a long drive.

n Avoid driving during your body’s natural “down time” when you’d normally be sleeping.

n Plan to drive long trips with a companion. Passengers can help look for early warning signs of fatigue and can help share the driving. Passengers should stay awake to talk to the driver.

n Sit up straight while driving; don’t slouch. Don’t stare straight ahead at all times; scan the road and nearby areas.

n Stop for a rest every 100 miles or two hours.

n If you need one, take a short nap. Or get some exercise -- run in place, jump up and down.

n Avoid alcohol and medications that may make you sleepy; read the label on the container or ask your physician.

n Consult a doctor if you have any symptoms of a possible sleep disorder: frequent daytime sleepiness, frequent difficulty sleeping at night or loud snoring every night.

Everyone needs to do their part to prevent accidents. So, before you hit the road, make sure you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Then you can rest assured you’ll arrive at your destination safe and sound.

Wayne Scroggins, president and owner of Scroggins Insurance Agency in Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 795-1500 or wayne@waynescroggins.com

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