Many of us have driven drowsy at some point. We want or need to get somewhere and go out, or we're fighting to finish up a long drive without having to pay to stop at a motel for the night.
Whatever the reason, driving while drowsy is quite common--as is falling asleep at the wheel. CBS Evening News says that "Forty-one percent of drivers admit to having 'fallen asleep or nodded off' at some point in their lives, according to a new survey done by AAA - one in 10 within the last year. More than half of them fell asleep on a highway."
These incidents can have deadly consequences. One in six fatal crashes involves a drowsy driver.
It isn't just long trips that induce drowsiness. Nancy White, who is with AAA, is quoted as saying, "Most people think they can control it, but the research show nearly 60 percent of people fall asleep just an hour into their trip."
So, what can you do? A big part of the solution is recognizing when drowsiness is a problem. Pull off and take a short nap. Change drivers. Check into a motel for the night. Know your limits and abide by them.
There are rumble strips in place to help warn drivers of when they are drifting off the road. That is part of the old way.
"The new-fashioned way: technology that Mercedes Benz puts in some of its cars. Computers monitor drivers' behavior, such as minor steering errors abruptly corrected or how many times a driver crosses in or out of lanes. If the 70-point check system determines it is early stage drowsy driving, an alarm sounds on the instrument panel."
Regardless of what systems are in place, though, it really comes down to driver awareness. Drivers need to be aware of the problem and be ready to take appropriate action to avoid the issue.
Otherwise, you could end up like Thomas Gallaghy. Nine years ago, he was driving with his wife. He fell asleep and hit a tree. His wife was killed instantly.
This wasn't a middle-of-the-night incident, either. It was 1:30 in the afternoon.
Due to the prevalence and seriousness of this issue, AAA is now airing public service announcements. The organization is hoping to issue a wake-up call to drivers.