- Chief Russ Roper
- 534 Washington Street
- Montpelier, ID 83254
- Work: 208-847-4237
- Fax : 208-847-1346
Chief’s Message March 29, 2010
- Driving While Tired
At one time or another, most of us have gotten behind the wheel without the benefit of adequate sleep. At the time, we were probably unaware sleep deprivation impaired our driving as significantly as driving drunk. Drowsy drivers are a serious threat to themselves and everyone else on the road.
- The Facts About Drowsy Driving
- The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 of reported crashes occur as a result of drowsiness, and considers sleep deprived drivers a hazard equal in severity to drunk drivers. Studies show that staying awake for 18 hours and driving produces the same effect as being legally drunk behind the wheel. The greater the sleep deprivation, the closer the correlation to higher levels of intoxication.
Actual statistics on crashes, injuries and fatalities caused by drowsy driving are difficult to calculate as there is no way to test the fatigue level of drivers. The cost, damages, injuries, and fatalities resulting from sleep deprived drivers have been estimated at $12.5 billion.
- Who Is Doing It?
- A study conducted by Farmer's Insurance found that 10 percent of drivers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel and 20 percent admitted to momentarily dozing off. Three times more men than women reported falling asleep while driving.
- How Bad Can It Get?
- Ford Motor company performed a study that painted a sobering picture of the potential for damage. Ford found that a driver sleeping even 2.5 seconds in a car traveling 70 mph covers the length of one football field. With other vehicles on the road or pedestrians nearby, that one driver can cause significant harm. In an effort to increase safety, Ford plans to incorporate findings from the study into the design of features for their vehicles.
- What are the Legal Ramifications?
- New Jersey passed 'Maggie's Law' in 2003. It allows sleep deprived drivers who cause accidents and have been awake more than 24 hours to be charged with vehicular homicide. The law also provides liability for companies that require employees to keep such hours. Existing laws in all states may cover the prosecution of drowsy drivers for damages caused, but unfortunately do little to prevent an impaired driver from getting behind the wheel in the first place.
- Preventing Drowsy Driving
- There are many popular methods to stay awake, such as drinking a caffeinated beverage, opening windows, turning on air conditioning, or blasting the radio. Studies have shown these to be ineffective, however. The only proven preventative measure is to pull off the road and take a nap lasting at least 20 minutes. This small break is enough to restore a driver's abilities. It’s best to nap, awaken more refreshed, and then continue on to a safe place to sleep longer.
Whether you are behind the wheel or a passenger, recognize the signs of drowsy driving:
- Heavy eyelids, frequent blinking, difficulty focusing vision
- Impaired concentration
- Missing exits or traffic signals
- Repeated yawning
- Drifting into other lanes or off the road
- Irritability or jumpiness
These symptoms are a warning no one can afford to ignore.
Driving drowsy is a hazardous practice. Sleep is not something a body can do without. At some point, the human body will simply take the rest it needs no matter where you are. Look for the signals of drowsy driving, choose not to operate a vehicle and help keep the roads safer for everyone.