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Drowsy Driving is Nothing to Yawn At

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Every year about 100,000 police-reported crashes involve drowsy driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Low estimates say these crashes result in more than 1550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries, as it’s difficult to determine if someone was drowsy at the time of the crash. Some estimates say it’s as high as 328,000 crashes annually with 109,000 injuries and 6400 fatalities!

To heighten awareness of drowsy driving, this year’s National Sleep Foundation’s annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is November 3-10. According to the Foundation, about half of U.S. adult drivers admit to consistently driving while feeling drowsy, and 20% admit to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point in the past year.

Driving while drowsy is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol when it comes to reaction times, awareness of hazards and ability to sustain attention all being compromised when feeling sleepy. Driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08%, the U.S. legal limit.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states the following are signs and symptoms of drowsy driving:
• Frequent yawning or difficulty keeping your eyes open
• “Nodding off” or having trouble keeping your head up
• Inability to remember driving the last few miles
• Missing road signs and turns
• Difficulty maintaining your speed
• Drifting out of your lane
• Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road

Drowsy driving is a major hazard, especially for long-distance truckers, delivery people, and other who drive regularly for work. Employers of such jobs should be emphasizing in their trainings about the risks of drowsy driving, the importance of getting enough sleep and refraining from or taking a break from driving if you are feeling drowsy.

Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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