Washington State Patrol highlights drowsy driving dangers

November 15, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 15, 2012

State troopers urged motorists to wake up to the dangers of drowsy driving during Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.

In addition to drunken driving and distracted driving, drowsy driving can cause devastating effects on Washington roadways.

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is observed through Nov. 18.

In 2010, drowsy driving caused 16 deaths and 60 seriously injured motorists in Washington. Estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries nationwide each year.

“Falling asleep at the wheel is as preventable as collisions that are caused by speeding and drinking and driving,” state patrol Chief John Batiste said in a statement. “People need to take the necessary precautions to prevent sleepiness as a needless cause of deaths and injuries.”

The state patrol recommends specific steps to prevent drowsy driving and fall-asleep crashes:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before hitting the road.
  • Do not be too rushed to arrive at your destination. Many drivers try to maximize a holiday weekend by driving at night or without stopping for breaks.
  • Use the buddy system. Avoid driving alone for long distances. A buddy who remains awake for the journey can take a turn behind the wheel and help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
  • Take a break every 100 miles or two hours.
  • Take a nap. Find a safe place to take a 15- to 20-minute nap if you think you might fall asleep. Be cautious about excessive drowsiness after waking up.
  • Avoid alcohol and medications capable of causing drowsiness as a side effect.
  • Avoid driving at times when you might otherwise be asleep.

Troopers reminded motorists to know the warning signs of drowsy driving, such as heavy eyelids, difficulty keeping your head up, drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating, hitting rumble strips, missing traffic signs and exits, and feeling irritable and restless.

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