When it comes to safe driving during winter and avoiding car accidents, it’s important to be on the lookout for impaired drivers and to make sure you are not driving while impaired yourself. But it’s not just alcohol that impacts your ability to drive safely. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 100,000 accidents reported to the police each year are actually the result of driver fatigue. And that’s just the accidents that are reported and that have been clearly determined to be the result of driver sleepiness. Since there is no test to measure sleep deprivation as there is for intoxication, and since self-reporting is unreliable, the number of accidents that are actually the result of sleep deprivation is likely much higher.
Surprisingly, sleep deprivation can impair our brains as much as alcohol or drugs can. Like alcohol, it can impact judgment, coordination, and memory and increase reaction time. In fact, a study in Australia showed that people who had been awake for 18 – 24 hours had an impairment level equal to those with blood alcohol concentrations of .05 – .10. A person with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 is considered legally drunk.
During the winter months, it’s common for us to get less sleep. The pace of life is more hectic, we often work frenetically to meet deadlines before taking time off to be with family and friends, we attend more get-togethers, and many of us travel—which can be exhausting and disruptive to sleep patterns. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study that showed that people who get only 6 to 7 hours of sleep per night rather than 8 or more hours double their chances of being in an auto accident, and the risk of accident injury increases as the amount of sleep decreases.
What can you do to lessen your risk of being injured in an accident resulting from sleep deprivation (yours or someone else’s) this season?
- Be sensitive to drivers around you. If a driver appears to be impaired, keep your distance or, if necessary, get completely off the road. Be sure to report any suspicious or erratic driving to the police.
- Make sleep a priority. Sometimes just recognizing the importance of getting enough sleep is all you need to find time for sleep in your life. You don’t have to say “yes” to every get-together or watch every game on TV.
- Don’t stay up extra late to finish that work report. Eat lunch at your desk so you can have that additional hour of sleep.
- If you are on the road and feel the least bit sleepy, pull off to a safe place! You’re better off taking a cat nap in a parking lot than trying to tough it out and make it home.
And remember, if you are in an accident make an appointment with Accident and Injury Chiropractic. At Accident and Injury, all we do is take care of the pain and injuries of accident victims. Our wish is for you to have a happy, healthy, and safe new year.