A Dangerous Problem Among College Students

When students get on the road, whether to head home for the holidays or to get a snack after a late-night study session, the risk of drowsy driving increases.  It is important that we make sure our students understand the risks of driving while fatigued, and the signs to look for in order to prevent this problem.

 Statistics:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 100,000 police reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. Out of that more than 75,000 result in injuries and 1,500 result in fatalities.
  • Drivers less than 25 years old cause approximately 55% of drowsy driving crashes, and those aged 18-29 are much more likely to drive while drowsy.
  • Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours; .08 is considered legally drunk in all states.
  • Most drowsy driving crashes occur between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.  Midnight – 2:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. are also peak times for crashes to occur.

 Warning Signs

  • Frequent yawns  and slow reactions
  • Missed traffic signs and inconsistent speeds
  • Drifting from lane to lane
  • Trouble staying focused and keeping your eyes open

What You Should Do:

  • Immediately get off of the road
  • Consume caffeine (note: it takes about 20 minutes for coffee to take effect on your body)
  • Take a nap (if you are in a safe area)
  • Pull over and stretch (try to find a gas station or other safe area; you should schedule a 15 minute  break for every 2 hours of consistent driving)
  • Don’t push yourself to continue driving if you feel sleepy!

Preventative Steps

  • Get a good night’s sleep before you begin your journey (the average person requires at least 8 hours)
  • Plan to drive during the time you would normally be awake (avoid driving during your body’s natural “down time”)
  • Plan a rest stop or stay overnight rather than drive through the night
  • Get a companion for a long trip (they can help look for early warning signs of fatigue  and provide a change of drivers)
  • Avoid heavy foods, alcohol, and medications which may impair performance
  • Consult your doctor if you suffer from frequent daytime sleepiness.

Before your student climbs into his car, alert him about the dangers of driving while drowsy, and give him some tips to prevent fatigue.

 

Tips taken from Parent Pages (2007) and www.drowsydriving.org

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