Insurance Insight: Stop driving drowsy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2002


Driving while drowsy may be turning into almost as serious a problem as driving while intoxicated.

Recent reports indicate that sleep deprivation has become widespread in America as people try to squeeze more activities into each day, and more auto crashes are being attributed 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 also says about 1 million crashes a year are thought to occur due to driver “lapses.” Fatigue makes such lapses more likely. Sleep-induced crashes typically involve a lone driver, late at night or in mid-afternoon, on a high-speed road.

Often, these are single car crashes.

The National Sleep Foundation and other experts suggest the following to help prevent accidents due to drowsy driving:
1. Get a good night’s sleep before starting a long drive. Avoid driving during your normal sleep or “down time.”
2. If possible, take a companion along to help you stay awake and possibly share the driving.
3. Sit up straight while driving; do not slouch. Do not stare straight ahead at all times; scanning the road and nearby areas will help you stay alert.
4. Stop for a rest every 100 miles or as needed. Take a short nap, or get out and walk around.
5. Avoid alcohol and medications that may make you sleepy. Read the label on the container of any medication before getting behind the wheel.
6. Consult a doctor if you have symptoms of a possible sleep disorder: 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 the line on insurance costs, and help you lead a safer life.

JAMES WAGNER JR. is a State Farm insurance agent with an office in LaPlace.