You’re rushing about wildly, trying to get the shopping done, get to the relatives’ house, trying to jam extra hours into the day, maybe even partying late on week nights.

‘Tis the season … for dangerous drowsy driving.

The roads filling up with college students returning home (often after all-nighters studying for finals), families on the road to visit relatives and friends.  Early morning shopping deals and days that begin and end in the dark all contribute to reduced sleep time and impaired wakefulness.  Add sleep apnea to that mix, and there is strong likelihood that you will encounter or become one of the  drowsy drivers on the road.

Driving simulation studies show that when drivers have been awake for 19 hours, they drive as poorly as when they have a blood alcohol level of 0.10, which is above the legal limit in most states.  If you pull an “all nighter” and then drive, it’s equivalent to driving drunk.   When sleep apnea is also present:  people with untreated mild to moderate sleep apnea, alone, perform worse behind the wheel than people with blood alcohol level of 0.06.

The National Traffic Safety Administration says there are 100,000 crashes per year due to fatigue and sleepiness each year.  And 1,550 deaths.

On average, it takes as little as two seconds of dozing at the wheel to cause you to inadvertently change lanes, swerve into oncoming traffic, or run off the road.

Most drivers do not realize that they are too sleepy and over-estimate their vigilance.  The most common warning signs are:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Frequent yawning and rubbing of eyes
  • Daydreaming and wandering thoughts instead of concentrating fully on the road
  • Drifting in your lane
  • Not remembering the last couple of miles

What to do if you notice ANY of these warning signs:

  • Pull over … call the people you are driving to visit and take a nap in a motel
  • If there is another person in the car with you, switch drivers
  • Don’t be macho … recognize that your warning signs can be the precursor to an accident … often not only involving you and the people in your car, but pedestrians and people in other cards.

What to do if you suspect sleep apnea:   take our free online sleep apnea risk assessment test at www.sleepwellandlive.com .

Don’t hesitate to contact your local sleep center and get evaluated.   Lives may well hang in the balance.

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