Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Drowsy driving an increasing hazard

Date:
October 28, 2013
Source:
Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Summary:
Sleep deprivation and darkness can cause drivers to doze when they believe they are alert, increasing hazards on the road.

Many of us make light of that relatively short drive home. But getting behind the wheel when you're sleepy can cost lives and lead to imprisonment and a hefty fine.

Drowsy drivers number in the millions. In a 2011 National Sleep Foundation poll, 60 percent of adults said they had driven at least once while drowsy, and 37 percent admitted to have actually fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. AAA reports that one in six fatal traffic accidents results from drowsy driving.

Sergio Bichao nearly added to those fatalities.

Motoring home in the twilight after classes at Rutgers-Newark, having been awake for more than 30 hours, he began to doze. Rather than pull over, he trudged on until he plowed into the back of another car carrying a young child.

He was shaken awake when his chest struck the steering wheel. "The windshield had shattered into a million pieces -- the most frightening thing I had ever seen," Bichao recalls. Miraculously, all escaped serious injury.

Like millions of others, Bichao -- a student juggling classes, homework and editing the school newspaper -- did not act on the signs that could have led to his death and the deaths of motorists in his path.

"When you are sleep-deprived for more than 24 hours, you need stronger sensory stimulation to maintain alertness," explains Xue Ming, a sleep medicine doctor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark. "Sensory input such as light, noise and touch keeps people alert, but when there's little stimulation, the brain will drift into a full sleep state or a micro sleep, which can last from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds. In this state, the person feels like he is awake -- he might even still have his eyes open -- but he is actually asleep."

Since his accident, Bichao has been a one-person crusader for driving alertly. "I've talked to almost everybody I know about the dangers of drowsy driving," he says. "I find that many people don't realize or believe just how dangerous it is."

Drivers are most vulnerable to drowsiness from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., when their circadian rhythm -- which regulates periods of sleepiness and wakefulness -- dips. The circadian rhythm also prompts people to feel drowsy in diminishing daylight. "If a person had a big meal at lunch or did not sleep well the night before, this decline is more prominent," says Ming, who stresses that shift workers are particularly vulnerable when they leave work in the early morning hours.

New Jersey became the first state to prohibit drowsy driving in 2003 when it passed "Maggie's Law." The law defines a motorist without sleep for more than 24 consecutive hours as a reckless driver who could face vehicular homicide charges, up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The law recognizes that sleepy drivers demonstrate impaired judgment, slower reaction time, impaired coordination and increased aggressiveness.

Ming suggests a few tips to help enhance driving alertness for limited periods: a 20-minute nap, two cups of coffee or similar caffeinated beverage, brightening the dashboard or purchasing a visor light box that simulates morning light for the passenger side, since light boosts alertness.

"But, if you are feeling really tired," Ming says, "the best thing to do is park your car and call a cab."

Though we need seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep to feel fully alert, most Americans get six or fewer, Ming says. In fact, about 70 million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 8.6 million Americans take prescription sleeping pills, which might affect alertness and coordination.

"Sleep driving" grabbed headlines when Patrick Kennedy and Kerry Kennedy reportedly had Ambien in their systems in separate crashes in 2006 and 2012.

"It's difficult to tell how a sleeping pill will affect an individual and how they drive the next day," says Beatrix Roemheld-Hamm, associate professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick. "For example, women typically are smaller than men, so the drug might affect them differently." She notes that the FDA has warned people taking the longer-acting Ambien CR not to drive at all the following day.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. The original article was written by Patti Verbanas. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. "Drowsy driving an increasing hazard." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028162054.htm>.
Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. (2013, October 28). Drowsy driving an increasing hazard. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028162054.htm
Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. "Drowsy driving an increasing hazard." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028162054.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Microneedle Patch Promises Painless Pricks

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 18, 2014) Researchers at The National University of Singapore have invented a new microneedle patch that could offer a faster and less painful delivery of drugs such as insulin and painkillers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

Raw: Nurse Nina Pham Arrives in Maryland

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) The first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola at a Dallas hospital walked down the stairs of an executive jet into an ambulance at an airport in Frederick, Maryland, on Thursday. Pham will be treated at the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins