Sleep Connected to Driver SafetyPosted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 by Mike McKenna
In Community, Culture, Transportation Engineering, tagged in Tags: drive safely work week, driver safety, sleep
As traffic engineers and roadway designers, we examine how streets and thoroughfares are used. We consider sightlines and traffic, working to improve safety on every project. This week, we are proud to participate in Drive Safely Work Week, which is organized by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS). However, instead of preparing a single blog post on the topic, we decided to produce a series we’ll share throughout the year, highlighting an important component of safe driving in each one.
Today, we’re offering details on how sleep impacts safety on the road. While we often hear about the dangers of distracted driving, lack of sleep or drowsiness also poses a great threat. In fact, drowsy driving is estimated to contribute to as many as 1.2 million collisions per year. Drivers who sleep less than five hours per night are six times more likely to be involved in a drowsy-driving-related crash than those with eight hours of sleep or more.
In addition to affecting your ability to drive, getting too little sleep can:
- Increase your appetite, particularly for sugary foods.
- Weaken your immune system.
- Increase blood pressure.
- Make a person irritable.
- Lead to symptoms of depression.
- Contribute to lapses of attention and reduce focus, resulting in mistakes and accidents.
Some of the ways you can improve your sleep quality are to:
- Avoid laptops, cellphones, and other electronic devices in the hour leading up to bed. Each of these expose users to blue and white light, which according to studies, prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, a hormone that tells our bodies it’s nighttime.
- Skip late night eating. It’s best to finish dinner at least two hours before you go to sleep to avoid indigestion and heartburn.
- Wash your pet regularly if you suffer from allergies or don’t sleep with them during allergy season to get a better night’s rest.
If you’re on the road and feeling sleepy, the best thing you can do is pull over and catch a quick 20-30 minute nap. Taking these small steps can improve your health and overall safety on the road.