Sleeping At the Wheel The dangers of sleepiness when driving. Sleepiness affects the ability to concentrate and maintain attention and vigilance particularly when physically inactive. These effects may expose the sleepy individual to potentially dangerous consequences, particularly in sedentary and monotonous situations such as while driving a vehicle. Sleepiness is a major contributing factor to road traffic accidents. Studies of motorway accidents indicate that 20 to 25% appear to be due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel and are these are particularly likely to occur in the early morning or mid afternoon. Accidents in which the driver has fallen asleep tend to be particularly serious because of the lack of reaction of the driver to the impending collision.

Furthermore, sleepy drivers report a high incidence of near-misses on the road while driving, which suggests that they have an awareness of the driving risks related to sleepiness short of being involved in an actual collision. A Gallup poll carried out by the British Sleep Foundation found that 19% of male drivers admitted to having fallen asleep while driving. Occupations such as long-haul truck driving are particularly associated with sleepiness while driving which may not be surprising given the time they spend on the road. These findings are particularly worrying because of the likelihood of a fatal accident where a large truck driven by a driver who falls asleep is involved. Many spectacular multiple vehicle collisions that have occurred on motorways have been traced to drivers falling asleep at the wheel. US government figures indicate that 31% of lorry accidents in which the driver is killed are due to sleepiness.

Avoiding sleeping at the wheel. All drivers should be made aware of the serious dangers of driving when sleepy and should take active measures to minimise the risks. Drivers should not start out at all if they are sleepy. Overnight drives are a particular danger and every effort should be made to have a sleep before setting out. If a driver becomes sleepy at the wheel they should stop and ideally another driver should take over. If this is impossible they should rest and take a nap.

Research has shown that a short (10 - 20 minutes) nap can be refreshing in this situation. Indeed if one has to drive on, the best measure may be to stop, have a cup of a caffeine containing drink and then a 20 minute nap. Thus when you waken you have the double benefit of a refreshing nap and the caffeine having been absorbed and starting to take effect. Other measures such as driving with the windows open and turning up the radio are relatively ineffective. Obviously, every effort should be made to remove the underlying cause of sleepiness, whether this be due to overwork, shift work family commitments or an underlying medical problem such as sleep apnea The dangers of driving when sleepy cannot be over emphasised. Laws of NJ on sleeping at the Wheel NEW JERSEY: QUOTE: from New Jersey Attorney General regarding: Drowsy/Fatigued Drivers: 'We will be there watching with a summons and a stiff fine," said state Attorney General Peter Vernier o.

'We do this for the sole reason of saving lives.' Our neighboring state of New Jersey seems to protect the general driving public at large from motorists who fall asleep behind the wheel. In New Jersey, if a driver falls asleep behind the wheel, he is charged under their Vehicle and Traffic Law 39: 4-97 Careless Driving. Falling asleep at the wheel falls under their Careless Driving law. All moving violations, with a few exceptions, carry a fine of $76. 00. Generally a summons would be issued at the scene, if a driver admitted falling asleep to an officer.

If the driver injured an innocent victim the fine would still be $76, but it must be paid after a court appearance and the judge has the discretion to raise fines. All fatalities are referred to the county prosecutor for review and filing of additional charges. Here are the main factors that lead to people falling asleep behind the wheel of a car: Sleep loss is a major factor. For instance, not getting enough sleep the night before heading out can have a very negative impact on alertness and reaction time. Driving patterns, including driving between midnight and 6 a. m.

; driving a substantial number of miles each year and / or a substantial number of hours each day; driving in the mid-afternoon hours (especially for older persons); and driving for longer times without taking a break. Use of sedating medications, especially prescribed tricyclic antidepressants (MAO inhibitors, such as Nardi l, Par nate or Mar plan, as well as other, newer tricyclics, like Elavil, Sine quan and, more recently, Anafranil). Other drugs would include hypnotics, such as and agents, and even some over-the-counter antihistamines. Untreated or unrecognized sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea syndrome (SAS) and narcolepsy. Consumption of alcohol, which adds to drowsiness and can interact with certain medications. The NHTSA study also identified specific crash characteristics associated with this type of accident.

Unlike many other accident events, drowsy-driving mishaps typically involve only one vehicle and one driver. Here are the characteristics: The problem occurs during late night / early morning or mid-afternoon. The crash is likely to be serious. A single vehicle leaves the roadway. The crash occurs on a high-speed road. The driver does not attempt to avoid a crash.

The driver is alone in the vehicle. Finally, the study pinpointed three population groups at highest risk for drowsy-driving crashes. They are: Young people (ages 16 to 29), especially males. Shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night or working long or irregular hours.