Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (Nov. 12 - 16)

About one-third of Americans admit to having trouble keeping their eyes open in the past 30 days, even though nearly all Americans feel that it’s unacceptable for someone to drive when they are that sleepy, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The AAA Foundation estimates that about one in six deadly crashes involves a drowsy driver.

To save lives and curb the number of fatigue-related crashes, November 12-18, 2012 has been declared Drowsy Driving Prevention Week® by the National Sleep Foundation. The annual campaign aims to educate the public about the risks of driving while drowsy and countermeasures to improve safety behind the wheel of a bus, truck, taxi or car.

When your yawning becomes almost constant, when your vision seems blurry, or when you are blinking hard or frequently, you may be experiencing drowsy driving.  If you experience these symptoms, call Mary Washington Healthcare Sleep and Wake Disorders Centers at 540.741.7830 to learn if you may need a sleep study.

At least 100,000 police-reported crashes each year are the direct result of driver fatigue, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These accidents result in at least 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries annually, as well as an estimated $12.5 billion in losses.

Sleepiness can impair drivers by causing slower reaction times, vision impairment, and lapses in judgment. In fact, studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, the legal limit in all states. It is also possible to fall into a 3-4 second microsleep without realizing it.

To avoid a drowsy driving-related crash, consider these tips to stay alert, whether you’re driving a truck, bus, taxi or car:

  • Don’t attempt long drives alone. According to the AAA Foundation, a driver is half as likely to be involved in a drowsy driving-related accident if someone else is in the car.
  • Aim to get plenty of sleep before driving long distances. People who sleep 6-7 hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a crash as those who sleep 8 hours or more.
  • Take a short break from driving every 100 miles or two hours. To stay alert, get a snack. Switch drivers. Stand up to stretch. The caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours.

The Mary Washington Hospital Sleep and Wake Disorders Center is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Staff physicians are board certified in sleep medicine. Other staff members include registered polysomnigraphy technicians and trained sleep technicians.

For more information, visit www.mwhc.com.

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Mary Washington Healthcare is a fully integrated, regional medical system that provides inpatient and outpatient care through over 40 facilities and services including Mary Washington Hospital, a 437-bed regional medical center, and Stafford Hospital, a 100-bed community hospital.  Mary Washington Healthcare is a nonprofit health system and has a long-standing commitment to provide care regardless of ability to pay.  For more information about our services and facilities, visit www.MaryWashingtonHealthcare.com.