Stay safe, alert when be­hind the wheel

The Review - - OPINION -

With hit-the-high­way hol­i­day sea­son still upon us, it’s time for a re­minder of the per­ils of drowsy and dis­tracted driv­ing.

AAA Mid-At­lantic re­ports that, ac­cord­ing to Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion sta­tis­tics, fa­tigue causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, re­sult­ing in 40,000 in­juries and 1,550 deaths.

AAA es­ti­mates that 30 per­cent of li­censed driv­ers have driven in the past 30 days when they were so tired that they strug­gled to keep their eyes open. In fact, one in 10 li­censed driv­ers con­fesses to hav­ing nod­ded off at the wheel at least once in the past year, and one in seven driv­ers be­tween the ages of 16 to 24 ad­mit­ted the same, mak­ing them the most at-risk group, the AAA says.

Rag­ina Averella, a spokes­woman for AAA Mid-At­lantic, com­pares drowsy driv­ing with more pub­li­cized drunk, drugged and dis­tracted driv­ing.

“Driv­ing while sleepy or fa­tigued can sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact driv­ing abil­ity, caus­ing slower re­ac­tion time, vi­sion im­pair­ment and lapses in judg­ment,” she wrote in a news re­lease.

To re­main alert and avoid drowsi­ness, AAA sug­gests:

• Get­ting plenty of sleep (at least six hours) the night be­fore a long trip;

• Sched­ul­ing a break ev­ery two hours or ev­ery 100 miles;

• Trav­el­ing at times when you are nor­mally awake, and stay­ing overnight rather than driv­ing straight through; and

• Stop driv­ing if you be­come sleepy; some­one who is tired could fall asleep at any time.

Symp­toms of sleepi­ness in­clude but are not lim­ited to:

• Hav­ing trou­ble keep­ing your eyes open and fo­cused;

• The in­abil­ity to keep your head up;

• Day­dream­ing or hav­ing wan­der­ing, dis­con­nected thoughts; and

• Drift­ing from your lane or off the road, or tail­gat­ing.

In ad­di­tion to drowsy driv­ing, the rush of the hol­i­day sea­son may lead mo­torists to speed on the road­ways, pre­sent­ing an ad­di­tional dan­ger. Then there are the dis­trac­tions due to the modern-day propen­sity to use cell­phones while driv­ing, in ad­di­tion to driv­ers eat­ing while driv­ing in or­der to save time from hav­ing to stop for food.

Hol­i­day par­ties also add to the threat of folks drink­ing and driv­ing, the dead­li­est mix of them all.

So, in or­der to have a safe and happy hol­i­day, when you get be­hind the wheel, don’t drink and drive, cut the dis­trac­tions and stay fo­cused, and if you get sleepy, pull over or let some­one else drive.

Happy hol­i­days!

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