Is Driving Tired Like Driving Drunk?
If you are over-tired, you are impaired. Please don’t drive. That’s the message from the Highway Safety Roundtable and its new website, www.fatigueimpairment.ca.
Drowsy drivers put themselves and other road users at risk. Like alcohol, fatigue affects our ability to drive by slowing reaction time, decreasing awareness and impairing judgment. But if you are overtired, your driving ability may well be impaired.
An alarming 20 percent of Canadians admit to falling asleep at the wheel at least once over the last year. Studies also suggest fatigue is a factor in about 15 percent of motor vehicle collisions, resulting in about 400 deaths and 2,100 serious injuries every year.
Fatigue can be caused by too few hours of sleep; interrupted or fragmented sleep or chronic sleep debt (lost hours of sleep that accumulate over time). Other factors contributing to driver fatigue include the amount of time spent on the road, time of day, undiagnosed sleep disorders and the use of medications or alcohol.
Telltale signs that you may be too tired to drive include loss of concentration, drowsiness, yawning, slow reactions, sore or tired eyes, boredom, feeling irritable and restless, missing road signs, difficulty in staying in the right lane, and nodding off. Shift workers and teenagers are especially susceptible. Drivers experiencing these symptoms are encouraged to pull safely over to the side of the road and stop for a nap.
Someone who has not slept for 18 hours is as impaired as someone with a 50 mg% blood alcohol level (for which, in most provinces, police can take away your driver’s license for 12 to 24 hours). Police cannot lay charges for fatigue impairment, but that is no reason to put your safety at risk.
This archived article is from July 2006.
Although every effort has been made to make sure the information presented is accurate,
please note that it may contain information that is out-of-date.
Sleep Deprivation Affects Eye-steering Coordination When Driving
Date: June 18, 2007 Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Results of the study showed that, in all drivers, sleep deprivation adversely affected their ability to coordinate eye movements when steering. There were instances of both acute and chronic reductions in the degree of coordination and in the time lead of eye movements over steering.
Driving a vehicle requires coordination of horizontal eye movements and steering. Recent research finds that even a single night of sleep deprivation can impact a person’s ability to coordinate eye movements with steering.
The study, authored by Mark Chattington of Manchester Metropolitan University, focused on six participants, who drove a winding route on a driving simulator. On the first day, they drove for one hour starting at 5 p.m. The subjects were kept awake the following night, and on day two, drove again at 5 p.m. for up to two-and-a-half hours. Their eye movements were monitored using a dashboard mounted eye tracker, and steering wheel movement was monitored through a precision potentiometer attached to the steering column.
The results showed that, in all drivers, sleep deprivation adversely affected their ability to coordinate eye movements when steering. There were instances of both acute and chronic reductions in the degree of coordination and in the time lead of eye movements over steering.
“The analysis of eye-steering coordination may provide a useful method of detecting when a driver is in danger of losing control of a vehicle due to fatigue, before the driver actually falls asleep,” said Chattington.
The amount of sleep a person gets affects his or her physical health, emotional well-being, mental abilities, productivity and performance. Recent studies associate lack of sleep with serious health problems such as an increased risk of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
An abstract of this research was presented June 11 at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).
Experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night to maintain good health and optimum performance.
Persons who think they might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician, who will refer them to a sleep specialist.
The above story is based on materials provided by American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
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American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Sleep Deprivation Affects Eye-steering Coordination When Driving.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2007.
Sleep Deprivation and Reaction Time
By Sandy Baker
Sleep deprivation and reaction time go hand in hand. Ultimately, those who are not getting enough sleep will see a significant impact on their physical and mental abilities. In some studies, the reactions of someone who is significantly deprived of sleep will be similar to the reactions of those who have consumed alcohol.
A Stanford research project, headed by Nelson B. Powell, DDS, MD, showed that those who were sleep deprived and then had their reaction times tested faired nearly as poorly as those considered legally drunk. This study was the first to show that there was a severe impairment of the individuals even at mild to moderate level of sleep disturbances.
The sleep study was aimed at showing the importance of sleep in how it affects the workplace. Pilots who do not get enough sleep are likely to make mistakes. Truck drivers who do not get enough sleep are likely to cause highway accidents. Other industries are just as impacted including train engineers, security personnel and others whose physical senses must be put in place. The study went as far as to say that a truck driver, airline pilot or train engineer who consumed alcohol before working would fair just as well as those who got little to no sleep.
Sleep Deprivation and Reaction Time Comparisons
According to reports from the British Journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, getting anything less than six hours of sleep per night can seriously affect your ability to react to situations. It poses a “very serious risk” to your health and to those around you because you are less likely to respond fast enough in situations.
In the study, it found that drivers are the most vulnerable. Those that drive after being awake for 17 to 19 hours straight, performed very poorly. In fact, they performed worse and were more vulnerable than those who had a blood alcohol level of .05, considered by many to be alcohol impaired.
Road accidents are often caused by sleep deprivation. The same study found that up to 60 percent of road accidents were caused at least in part by sleep deprivation. The results of the study suggested that while countries and states put in place limitations on driving while drunk, the same is necessary for those driving sleep impaired.
What’s Happening in Your Body
Sleep deprivation and reaction time is the direct result of the effect not sleeping has on your body. It can affect each person differently and each person in several ways. In most cases, the problem is not a muscular one, but a physiological affect. The brain isn’t getting enough time to rest, which in turn causes it to react slowly to stimuli. This is the reason that, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are over 100,000 traffic accidents every year that are caused by fatigue. In their study, they found that many of the errors made happened after just one night of lack of sleep, but at just two nights of inadequate sleep, the number of errors made jumps dramatically.
Overcoming Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is high among teens and young adults in college. It is also high for those who work long hours throughout their middle years. Because sleep deprivation is a risky situation to put yourself in, here are some tips to help you improve your sleep:
- Seek out medical attention if you are trying to sleep and can’t get enough sleep or don’t feel rested; medical problems can cause this
- Invest in sleeping at least six hours or more per night; doctors recommend between seven and eight hours for most adults, eight to ten for children
- Turn off stimulation prior to bed time; don’t read, watch television or eat at least 30 minutes prior to trying to sleep
Choose soothing and relaxing activities before bed like a warm bath or a cup of tea
Try to dedicate the same timeframe each day to sleeping, forming a pattern of sleeping will help increase the quality of your sleep; sleep at the same time whenever possible
Overcoming sleep deprivation is necessary. It is important to note that not only do you put yourself in harm’s way when you do not get enough sleep, but those relying on you to perform these tasks are also affected.