Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Drivers Forget to Sleep

Sleep is not voluntary, so if you are drowsy you can fall asleep without knowing it.  During a "microsleep" of a few seconds, a car travel 100 yards — plenty of time to place yourself, your passengers and your vehicle in harm's way.

Symptoms of fatigue often include slow reaction times, drifting between lanes, sore or tired eyes, poor concentration, blurred vision, impatience and constant yawning.  In many cases, drivers do not remember the last few miles of the trip. 

The obvious solution is to get enough sleep the night before trip.  But stress, pressure and anxiety fatigue many drivers BEFORE they get behind the wheel.  Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and colas are no substitute for sleep.  The caffeine may make you feel temporarily alert, but the effects last only a short time.

Auto Body & Glass Centers: Sleep-Related Road Crashes

Auto Body & Glass Centers: Sleep-Related Road Crashes

Sleep-Related Road Crashes

National Lampoon's film Vacation portrayed the Griswold family's madcap trek across the country to Wally World.  One particularly memorable scene depicted the entire family sleeping soundly and comfortably.  When the camera pans back we realize that they are asleep in a rapidly moving, out-of-control vehicle, and that Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is snoozing behind the wheel.

That scene got a lot of chuckles from audiences, but driver fatigue is no laughing matter.  Jim Tornetta from CollisionMax says, "Accidents involving driver fatigue are twice as likely to result in fatalities because a sleeping driver is unable to brake or swerve."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there are 56,000 sleep-related road crashes annually in the USA, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities.  So how will you know if you are too tired to continue driving?  You probably won't.

See our next blog about sleep and fatigue.



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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Age vs. Accidents

Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death and injury in all age groups. Statistics show that 40,000 of the nearly 6 million accidents each year result in fatalities. Alcohol is a factor in 40 per cent of these fatalities and speeding accounts for 29 percent of deaths. Speeding and alcohol are not the only problems we face on the road —young drivers (16-20 years of age) and older drivers (over the age of 69) have much higher fatality rates than those between the ages of 21 and 69.

Teen drivers are more likely to be the cause of their own accidents than more seasoned motorists because they lack maturity and driving experience. Immaturity is evident in such risky practices as tailgating and speeding. Jim Tornetta, president of CollisionMax, says, "Many teens are ill-equipped to handle emergency driving maneuvers, and the majority of teen injuries and fatalities come about in single-vehicle crashes." He continues, "They simply lose control of the car and cannot recover in time." Alcohol, cell phones, loud music and distractions from other teenage passengers are also significant contributing factors to teen crashes.

Although they typically wear their seat belts, drive the speed limit, and rarely take risks on the road, senior citizens' crash rates have skyrocketed. Highway deaths for motorists under 65 have dropped 3 percent since 1995, to 33,659 last year. Among seniors, however, deaths jumped 15 percent over the same period, to 8,141 last year. During the past two decades, the fatality rate of senior drivers has also risen.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatalities among elderly drivers will increase faster than their population, to more than 23,000 annually - 63 deaths a day - by 2030. Although they don't drive as recklessly as some younger motorists, seniors have difficulty with reaction times, reading road signs and judging distances.

States are struggling for an answer to senior driving issues. Florida is enlarging some highway street signs from 12 inches to 36 to accommodate the weaker vision of its 2.9 million elderly drivers. Nine states are considering legislation that requires doctors to report serious medical conditions afflicting seniors to motor-vehicle authorities. Officials could then order new driving tests or revoke licenses.

Although there is no easy answer, government agencies are introducing new programs to help teens and seniors become better drivers. With a little work, the roads will be safer for motorists of all ages.