APRIL 2015 ;e Costco Connection 33
By Andrea Downing Peck
DRUNKEN DRIVING AND distracted driving grab headlines, but drowsy driving is
potentially an equally lethal combination.
More than one in five fatal crashes involve
driver fatigue, according to new research from
the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
“It’s clearly an underappreciated problem,”
says Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance
president Ken Ciak. “The media does a great
job highlighting the dangers of drinking and
driving, or, lately, texting and driving, but
drowsy driving doesn’t get the same attention;
therefore, people don’t understand the warning signs or potential repercussions.”
Lack of evidence
Unlike alcohol, fatigue does not leave
behind physical evidence, leading safety
experts to suggest the problem is more prevalent than accident statistics indicate, since few
sleep-deprived drivers admit to nodding off
at the wheel.
“The problem with crash reports is a
police officer can’t pull up to a crash scene and
say fatigue was involved, because the evidence
is gone the second the crash happens,” says
Zac Doerzaph, director of the Virginia Tech
Center for Advanced Automotive Research.
Too often drivers endanger themselves
and others because they misjudge their ability
to overcome fatigue and underestimate the
impact sleepiness has on driving performance.
“Everybody likes to think they’re strong
and they’re tough and they can will themselves to stay awake,” says Brian Tefft, senior
research associate for the AAA Foundation.
“But research shows on average you have to
be out for two to four minutes to realize you
were just asleep, whereas it only takes two or
three seconds for something catastrophic to
happen if you are asleep at the wheel.”
People who sleep six to seven hours a
night are twice as likely to be involved in a
The dangers of
The Costco Connection
Costco offers a variety of items, including
mattresses, pillows, ear plugs and more, to
help provide a good night’s sleep.
crash as those who sleep eight hours or more,
according to a study by the AAA Foundation
for Traffic Safety. The same study found that
sleeping less than five hours increases the risk
of a drowsy-driving accident four-fold.
“Your performance declines beyond 16
hours awake, and it keeps getting worse,” says
Allan Pack, director, Center for Sleep and
Circadian Neurobiology, University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “When you
get to 20 hours without sleep, you are performing as would somebody with a blood-alcohol
limit [of 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving
under the influence in all 50 states].”
Teenage drivers, who often are balancing
school, extracurricular activities and part-time jobs, are particularly at risk, with some
studies showing half of all fatigued-driving
crashes involve drivers 25 or younger.
Denise Pope, a lecturer in the Stanford
Graduate School of Education, says parents
can take steps to reverse that statistic. She recommends “pulling the car keys” if your child
gets less than six and a half hours of sleep on
any given night.
“We would not let our kids drive drunk
home from a party, yet we let them drive
extremely sleep-deprived to school,” Pope says.
In addition to young adults, people who
work long hours, shift workers, commercial
drivers and those with untreated sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea are most
at risk for sleep-related accidents.
“This is an issue that
deserves the same
level of attention ...
as alcohol, speeding
and seat-belt use.”
—Brian Tefft, AAA Foundation
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