Insurance InsightsMIKE WILLIAMS / L’Observateur / October 11, 2000Driving while drowsy has become as big a problem in America as driving while intoxicated.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Sleep deprivation has become widespread in America as people try to squeeze more activities into each day. As a result, more crashes are beingattributed to sleepiness.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 100,000 crashes, 1,500 deaths and 40,000 injuries each year can be blamed on drowsy driving.

The NHTSA says about one million crashes a year are thought to occur due to driver inattention or lapses. Fatigue makes such lapses more likely. Sleep-induced crashes typically involve a lone driver who is driving late at night or in mid-afternoon on a high-speed road. Often it is a single-car crash where avehicle leaves the road.

Don’t drive unless you are alert. The National Sleep Foundation and otherexperts suggest the following to help prevent accidents due to drowsy driving:

Get a good night’s sleep before starting a long drive. Avoid driving duringyour normal sleep or “down time.”

If possible, take a companion along to help you stay awake and possibly share the driving on long trips.

Sit up straight while driving; don’t slouch. Don’t stare straight ahead all thetime; scan the road and nearby areas.

Stop for a rest every 100 miles or every two hours. If you need one, takea short nap, get out and stretch, jog or take a walk.

Avoid alcohol and medications that make you sleepy; read the label on the container or consult your physician.

Consult a doctor if you have symptoms of a possible sleep disorder such as daytime sleepiness, difficulty sleeping at night or loud snoring every night.

Once again, common sense and a pro-active approach will help prevent an accident, hold down insurance costs and help you lead a safer life.

MIKE WILLIAMS, who writes this column every Wednesday for L’Observateur, is a local agent with State Farm Insurance.

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