Approximately 1.6% of total fatalities in 2020 involve drowsy driving according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While drowsy driving is responsible for a substantial percentage of road traffic accidents in the US, it had not received as much attention as driving under the influence or drunk driving until recently. As a result, highway safety professionals are taking a comprehensive strategic approach to put an end to deaths caused due to drowsy driving.
What is Drowsy Driving?
While it may sound not-so-serious, the ramifications of this risky behavior should not be overlooked. Drowsy driving is a practice demonstrated mostly by drivers when they feel fatigued and find it difficult to stay alert at the wheel.
Fatigue is a state where mental alertness is compromised, and it arises from lack of adequate sleep. It involves cognitive impairment that indicates the time right before sleep occurs. Fatigue leads drivers to have less awareness of road hazards, slowing down the reaction times, and increasing the likelihood of a crash.
Driving while feeling sleepy, drowsy, or tired is a disturbingly common safety concern on US roadways. The phenomenon can be as deadly as Driving Under the Influence (DUI), with even milder and shorter-term sleep deprivation that can lead to driving impairment. Recent studies suggest that getting less than 5 hours of sleep causes the same level of impairment as drunk driving.
Understanding its Impact on Driving
Sleepiness (also known as drowsiness) is defined as the need to fall asleep, which is essentially the result of circadian rhythms, inherent in the human body. It consists of 24 hours biological patterns impacting a person’s fatigue level.
Research has confirmed the fact that neurobiologically based sleepiness leads to human error in various settings. Driving is no exception. When drivers are drowsy, sleepy, or fatigued, they tend to respond slower than usual and find it more difficult to concentrate on the surroundings. Fatigue is the result of prolonged wakefulness, variations in circadian rhythms, accumulated lack of sleep, sleep disorder, among others.
While sleepiness is an inevitable biological phenomenon, falling asleep at the wheel can have serious consequences. They might include but are not limited to impaired cognition & performance, fatal accidents & crashes, slower reaction times, erratic speed control, sloppy steering, and more.
An estimation of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that around 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur every year. Apart from causing crashes, drowsy driving can take a significant toll on the nation’s economy. According to NHTSA, drowsy driving-related crashes that result in death or injury tend to cost $109 billion annually.
Who is at Greater Risk?
Young drivers, especially males are more likely to fall asleep while driving due to their lifestyle or behavioral choices. This may include staying up late, working long hours, or consuming alcohol.
Those with untreated sleep disorders do not get enough sleep at night, which causes them to stay tired during the day.
Drivers that do not get adequate sleep at night and drive in the early morning hours are more likely to be at greater risk than drivers who slept well the night before.
Drivers working in the night or rotational shifts have a hard time sleeping.
Business travelers that cross many time zones during a flight suffer from a lack of sleep. They tend to stay less alert while driving, increasing the chance of a major crash.
Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
A study conducted by the Gyeonggi Research Institute (GRI) found that individual conditions such as sleep time are not the sole contributors to falling asleep at the wheel. Working hours seem to have a profound impact on drowsy driving. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests being aware of the following warning signs to reduce potential risks:
- Yawning or rubbing the eyes
- Blinking frequently with heavy eyelids
- Drifting from the lane
- Feeling fatigued
- Missing exits
- Hitting a rumble strip
Generating Awareness Can Help Drive Change
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 83.6 million people get less than 7 hours of sleep every day. This leads to a shocking number of deaths (approximately 5,000) in drowsy driving-related crashes every year.
The modern values and views have caused our society to be a victim of a deadly problem: drowsy driving. Unfortunately, it is the most overlooked phenomenon, with more and more drivers driving without realizing the influence of sleep deprivation. Due to a combination of factors including but not limited to a lack of education and awareness, people are either unaware or downplay its impact on one’s ability to drive.
The most effective step in changing drowsy driving behavior is making sure drivers understand the risks, and countermeasures so they can make an informed decision about their behavior. Fatigue management programs, if implemented successfully by workplace managers can drive success in the long run.
Advancements in Automobile Technology
Today’s vehicles are designed to rely on significant computer processing capacity and digital sensors. The computer systems not only assist with the comfort and entertainment of the occupants but are also increasingly used to enable vehicles to carry out certain driving tasks without human intervention.
As technology advances with time, new vehicle functions are constantly developed by manufacturers that can collect a substantial amount of real-time data, and perform complex algorithms. An increasing number of driver-state monitoring systems are gaining momentum. These systems are successful in detecting impaired attention while driving (including drowsiness).
Fight the Good Fight: Banish Drowsy Driving with Vyncs
Reducing the odds of a crash requires a powerful combination of intelligence, automation, and connected data. That’s where Vyncs comes into the picture. After analyzing vehicle sensor data, Vyncs, a real-time GPS tracking device can provide actionable intelligence, which can further help drivers to be safer and more efficient on the roads.
For example, the Vyncs device has a 3-axes accelerometer, which can detect acceleration and decelerations along 3 axes. This allows one to detect unusual driving behavior. The Vyncs system also scores the drivers based on their quality of driving. That helps a parent or a fleet manager to identify emerging problems in driving behavior before those become the reason behind an accident.
By letting you monitor your drivers’ driving behavior, Vyncs empowers you to take action to prevent driving without falling asleep behind the wheel. Also, by reviewing driver safety reports generated by Vyncs, you can keep tabs on changes (if any) in their driving performance - and be proactive about it.
So, take your first step towards eliminating the risks of drowsy driving with Vyncs!