The National Sleep Foundation Reminds Memorial Day Travelers That Alert and Alive is the Way to Drive!

Drowsy Driving a Dangerous Yet Preventable Hazard for Holiday Drivers

May 10, 2007, 01:00 ET from National Sleep Foundation

    WASHINGTON, May 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- America's highways will
 soon be bumper to bumper with road-tripping vacationers eager to enjoy
 their favorite Memorial Day vacation spots. Sadly, many drivers will hit
 the road without having had enough sleep, oblivious to the dangers of
 drowsy driving. Since Memorial Day kicks off the beginning of the summer
 vacation season, which according to the National Highway Traffic Safety
 Administration (NHTSA) is the deadliest time of year for drivers, the
 National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reminds the public to stay alert at the
 wheel and beware of other sleepy drivers in order to arrive at their
 destinations safely.
     "Many people fail to realize just how much sleep impacts alertness on
 the roadways. Not getting a good night's sleep and driving can have deadly
 consequences," said Richard Gelula, NSF's chief executive officer. "In
 fact, drowsy driving may be just as dangerous as drunk driving because
 sleepiness results in slower reaction times and performance; reduced
 judgment and vision; delayed information processing and short term memory
 formation; and even increased anger and moodiness."
     According to NHTSA, driver fatigue is the direct cause of 100,000 car
 crashes each year, and the results are both deadly and costly: NHTSA
 estimates 1,550 deaths; 71,000 injuries; and $12.5 billion in diminished
 productivity and property loss. Researchers believe that these numbers are
 underestimated, given that an estimated 1 million crashes are produced by
 driver inattention - - a side effect of fatigue.
     Drowsy driving is an all too common danger on America's roadways. Those
 who claim that they have never operated a vehicle while feeling drowsy are
 in the minority, as NSF's 2005 Sleep in America Poll showed that 60 percent
 of adults had done so in the past year. Furthermore, one out of five
 drivers report having actually fallen asleep while driving; that's a
 staggering 32 million people!
     "Drowsy driving risks the life of not only the driver, but the lives of
 their passengers -- family and friends -- and other drivers on the road,"
 said Gelula. "The disastrous effects of fatigue-related crashes can easily
 be prevented; all it takes is for people to recognize the problem and get
 off the road."
     Are you feeling sleepy? Pull Over!
     Though you may be alert when you first begin your drive, drowsiness may
 soon set in. Trying to beat traffic or arrive at your destination early by
 driving while sleepy puts you and other motorists at risk. The following
 warning signs indicate that it's time pull over and stop driving:
     -- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and/or heavy eyelids
     -- Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating and/or hitting rumble
     -- Yawning repeatedly
     -- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven
     -- Missing exits or traffic signs
     -- Trouble keeping your head up
     Tips for drowsy-free driving
     Here are some tips for avoiding a crash caused by drowsiness during
 Memorial Day weekend and year round:
     -- Get a good night's sleep before you hit the road. You'll want to be
        alert for the drive and for your vacation, so get to sleep early the
        night before you go.
     -- Don't be too rushed to arrive at your destination. Many drivers try to
        maximize the holiday weekend by driving all night or without stopping
        for breaks. However, crashes caused by sleepiness are among the most
        deadly. It's better to allow the time, drive alert, and arrive alive.
     -- Use the buddy system. Just as you should not swim alone, 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
     -- Take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours.
     -- Avoid alcohol and medications (over-the-counter and prescribed) that
        may impair driving performance and magnify the effects of sleepiness.
     -- Avoid driving at times when you would normally be sleeping.
     -- Pack a cooler filled with caffeinated beverages. Caffeine takes effect
        in about 20-30 minutes. If you start to feel sleepy, drink a
        caffeinated beverage and then pull over for a 30-minute nap before
        getting back on the road.
     For more information about sleep, visit

SOURCE National Sleep Foundation