The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has issued a new statement encouraging more active driver education on the problem of drowsy driving. They note that studies show a drowsy driver is comparably impaired to an intoxicated driver, and yet there is not as much education on the problem for drivers, including the role that snoring or sleep apnea may play in drowsy driving and related accidents.
What Is the AASM Recommending?
The AASM is not recommending a radical change in the way that we approach driver education. However, it is saying that we need to take a more active role in educating drivers about the perils of drowsy driving.
The AASM developed model language that it says states should include in their driver’s manuals, educational programs, and driver’s exams. The AASM also says that insurance companies should offer discounts for people who take educational programs dedicated to drowsy driving.
How Big Is the Problem?
It’s hard to know just how big this problem is. There is a wide range of estimates on the number of drowsy driving accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued conservative estimates of the role of drowsy driving, saying that drowsy driving is responsible for at least 72,000 crashes, resulting in 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths.
On the other hand the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation has released a much higher estimate, saying drowsy driving might be responsible for as many as 328,000 crashes, including 6400 fatal crashes.
With hundreds or even thousands of deaths caused by drowsy driving, it is time to acknowledge that this plays a serious role in traffic accidents.
Who Is at Risk for Drowsy Driving?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued a list of drowsy driving risk factors, including:
- Commercial drivers
- People who work long, night, or irregular shifts
- Drivers who don’t get enough sleep
- Drivers whose medications make them sleepy
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea
Although these drivers are at elevated risk for drowsy driving, all drivers should be aware of the signs of drowsy driving, such as:
- Blinking frequently
- Forgetting the route or missing turns
- Drifting in your lane–if you’re hitting the rumble strips then you need to pull over
When you find you’re driving drowsy, pull off the road for a break or let someone else drive.
Snoring Makes You Sleepy
Snoring is commonly related to drowsy driving. This may be because it’s closely related to sleep apnea, or because it is a sign that your airway is restricted, causing turbulent airflow. The CDC found that snorers were much more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.
Although on average 4% of drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel in the last 30 days, that number was more than twice as large (8.5%) for drivers who snored and got 6 hours of sleep or less.
Awareness is a good first step, but it’s also important to take action. If you notice that you’re sleepy during the day even when you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep, sleep apnea may be to blame.
To learn more about sleep apnea in San Diego and comfortable, convenient treatment options that can help get rid of drowsiness and reduce risk of accidents, please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment with a sleep dentist at Strober Dental.