Most people understand that driving under the effect of alcohol or drugs can cause dangerous as well as fatal consequences, but driving while sleepy can be just as lethal. While many drivers avoid getting behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol, the negative impact of drowsy driving is usually underestimated.
Therefore, despite being over exhausted, many people believe they can still drive safely. The statistics defy this belief because a report estimated that 1 in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 years or older) have fallen asleep while driving within the past month alone.
Read on to learn about some facts and negative consequences of drowsy driving.
Did You Know?
Driving vehicles is a complex activity that involves the integration of multiple skills. Among these skills, attentiveness and concentration are paramount to ensure proficiency and safety on the road. Since drowsiness can impact many of these abilities, it is not surprising that individuals with excessive daytime drowsiness sustain increased motor vehicle crashes.
In the United States, almost 30 million adults experience a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is considered a key contributor to many road traffic accidents. This is because the excessive daytime drowsiness, a major symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), clearly impairs driving performance during the day. Notably, its treatability offers the abundant potential for decreasing road traffic accidents.
Another major fact to note when it comes to driving is that drowsy driving and excessive alcohol have many things in common. Both can weaken judgment and vision, slow reflexes, interfere with coordination, induce moody or aggressive behavior, and diminish alertness.
According to the CDC, 18 consecutive hours of staying awake gives you the equivalent driving ability as drivers with a blood alcohol level of .05 (.08 is deemed legally drunk). Studies also reveal that excessive drowsiness reduces our judgment and boosts risk-taking. Sleep apnea patients are especially at risk of experiencing this level of impairment and aren’t expected to function well on the road. For this very reason, anyone feeling this kind of impairment should not be allowed to drive, even in a different situation.
Related Article: Sleep Apnea is More Alarming Than You May Realize
Tragic Consequences of Drowsy Driving Due to OSA
There is a significant link between untreated sleep apnea and getting drowsy at the wheel. Ignoring excessive sleepiness due to OSA can be fatal. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, drowsy drivers are accountable for 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries annually.
Here are some of the latest, prominent cases in which careless driving by commercial drivers with OSA issues had caused horrible road accidents.
- Sept. 2013 – An exhausted Greyhound driver turn bus over, severely injuring 5. The driver was previously recommended to consider a sleep study, but he did not bother to take the test. However, following a court-ordered sleep test later, he was found to be having OSA.
- Oct. 2014 – A Metro-North rail engineer, suspected to be suffering from sleep apnea fell asleep when the train was speedily moving through a constricted curve, killing 4, and wounding more than 70.
- Sept. 2016 – A New Jersey train crashed after colliding with the post, present at the end of the track on Hoboken station, killing one, and injuring 110. The engineer was known to experience issues with OSA.
- Jan. 2017 – A Long Island Rail Road commuter train, bumped into Atlantic Terminal Station in Brooklyn after failing to halt at the station, and injured 108 people.
Therefore, drivers should not ignore excessive sleepiness behind the wheels due to OSA, but learn how to address and prevent it. OSA is dangerous but a very treatable condition if you pay heed to the initial warning signs. Dentists usually prescribe oral appliances or mouth guards for curing mild to moderate OSA cases.
Related Article: Are Sleep Disorders Related to Dementia
Contact West Des Moines dentist to learn how specialized dental appliances can help you treat your snoring and daytime drowsiness condition due to OSA.