April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Motor vehicle deaths are on the rise and the National Safety Council has identified the behaviors and beliefs behind it. The NSC has conducted surveys over the past 12 months to ascertain what is causing the rise. The results are rather alarming. Here are some highlights from the survey:
- 47% of drivers believe it’s safe to send a text either manually or via voice-recognition systems.
- 45% say they feel pressure from employers to check email while driving; however, 44% say they have crashed in the last three years while they were either commuting or traveling for business.
- 35% of teens — a cohort that has seen an increase in fatal crashes — would use social media behind the wheel.
- 17% of teens feel their own distraction may have contributed to a crash.
- 71% believe they can have up to three drinks before they are not safe or too impaired to drive.
- 33% believe it’s acceptable to drive with less than four hours of sleep. In fact, drivers who are tired can be as impaired as drivers who are legally drunk.
- 32% say new cars can essentially drive themselves.
- 13% have driven after using marijuana in the last month.
- Two-thirds of drivers have felt unsafe because of another driver’s distraction, but just 25% feel their own distractions have put themselves or others at risk.
A big part of distracted driving comes from drowsy driving. The fact of the matter is that drowsy driving is equally dangerous as drunk driving. According to the survey results above 1/3 of Americans believe that driving with less than four hours of sleep is acceptable.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults ages 18-64 need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day. Adults 65 and older need 7 to 8 hours each day. The problem with addressing drowsy driving is that it is not as stigmatized as drunk driving. There are laws around drinking and driving, there are none around not-sleeping-and-driving. The solution must lie with the individual’s own responsibility.
Our 24/7 centric society makes it difficult to impress upon the importance of adequate sleep. It’s not only important for personal health but for the safety of others on the road when you get behind the wheel of car. Here are some helpful tips from AAA Exchange:
- Get enough sleep the night before a long trip.
- Travel at times when you’re normally awake. Stay overnight rather than drive straight through.
- Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles.
- Stop driving if you become sleepy.
- Never plan to work all day and then drive all night.
- Drink a caffeinated beverage. Since it takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream, find a safe place to take a 20- to 30-minute nap while you’re waiting for the caffeine to take effect.
- Avoid driving during sleepy times of day, particularly between midnight and 6 a.m.
- Travel with a passenger who’s awake, when possible.
Check out the National Safety Council for more information on Distracted Driving during this month’s awareness campaign!