10 Tips to Prevent a Road Death This Weekend

English: An advisory sign on Interstate 15 in ...

An advisory sign on Interstate 15 in Utah near Mt. Nebo. It reminds drowsy drivers to get off the freeway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Drowsiness, Drunk Driving, & Distractions Kill

Every hour on US roads, 4 people die because of drowsiness, drunk driving, or distractions. This statistics gets worse during busy travel weekend like this one. American Automobile Association projects 43.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of 0.7 percent over the 43.3 million people who traveled last year.

Here are my 10 tips to prevent a death this weekend. Please share these tips freely and it might just save an innocent life.

Please remember that turning on the radio, stretching your neck, putting a fan on high, putting your face out of window, slapping your face, or pushing a sharp pin in your thigh does not work.

  1. Certainly before a long trip, plan and get a good night’s sleep.
  2. Avoid driving from midnight to six o’clock in the morning.
  3. Be extra careful while driving around mid-afternoon.
  4. Do not drive after an overnight flight.
  5. Take a break at least every two hours.
  6. Take a power nap in anticipation of sleepiness.
  7. Remember that a cup of coffee can be lifesaving.
  8. Do not drive if you have untreated sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs, shift work sleep disorder, or narcolepsy.
  9. If your thoughts become dreamy, your eyelids feel heavy, or traffic signs do not mean much pull over. You are about to die!
  10. Keep your eyes on the road and away from the iPhone.
  11. Do not drive drunk.

Watch my interview with Gary Sieber discussing drowsy driving tips.

How Does Drowsy Driving Kill?

To answer this, I will share a story. On the very first day of my internship in this country, I did an initial evaluation of a female executive, who the paramedics had brought to the ER of Englewood Hospital Medical Center in Englewood, New Jersey. She was a restrained driver of a Volvo that ran off the road and into a tree on that cloudy afternoon on a drive back to her home in Englewood Cliffs from Newark Airport after a long transcontinental flight. Even though her car was totaled, she fortunately suffered only minor chest contusion. What struck me though was her answer when I asked her what had happened. “I just don’t know.”And that is the commonest answer I have heard during my twenty years of pulmonary practice while evaluating and treating survivors of motor vehicular accidents. I was baffled with that answer until I started my sleep medicine fellowship and learned about micro-sleeps and lack of situational awareness resulting from sleep deprivation.

Micro-sleeps are fatal. Micro sleeps, three to fourteen seconds of sleep activity seen on electroencephalographic recordings (brain waves) of awake individuals, cause uncontrollable sleep attacks without any warning in people with both acute and chronic sleep deprivation.

Loss of situational awareness kills, too. The other dangerous phenomenon seen in sleep-deprived leaders is the loss of situational awareness. With this deficit, the person loses awareness of the surrounding. Is the road ahead curving? Is there a reduced speed limit ahead? Is the car in the front braking? Are the driving conditions dangerous?

Beware of impaired decision-making too. When sleep deprived, your decision-making is impaired such that you may take a left turn when you would have waited. Or you may pass a truck on a curvy road, which you would not have done when rested. You may choose to text back while driving, which you would not have done if you were not sleep deprived.

Under our public awareness campaign, Stay Awake, Drive Safe, We do bulk emailing of above tips to colleges, high schools, hospitals, and companies a week before Thanksgiving, Forth of July, Christmas, and other major travel holidays. Please drop me an email at md4sleep@gmail.com to join that mailing list. Please write Stay Awake, Drive Safe in the subject line.

Spread the Word. Save a Life.

Please share this blog with your friends and family on facebook, twitter, and other social media. God bless you.

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