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Friends don't let friends drive drowsy

The dangers of drinking and driving are widely publicized, but many people don’t realize that drowsy driving can be just as fatal. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Richard Page)

The dangers of drinking and driving are widely publicized, but many people don’t realize that drowsy driving can be just as fatal. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Richard Page)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- "After a long week of working 10 hours a day, I think I'll head north to visit some relatives and relax for the weekend. It's only an eight hour drive; I should be there by midnight if I leave right after work. Can't forget the energy drinks! They should keep me alert."

It's great to plan a road trip, however ensure your plan considers the fatigue factor. Sleepiness and driving has been proven to be a dangerous combination.

The dangers of drinking and driving are widely publicized, but many people don't realize that drowsy driving can be just as fatal. Like alcohol; sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases your risk of crashing.

Several studies have been conducted by different agencies showing that drivers who've been awake for 24 hours have an equivalent driving
performance to a person who has a blood alcohol content of 0.1. They are seven times more likely to be involved in an accident.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, across the U.S. there have been approximately 100,000 reported crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,500 fatalities each year directly attributed to fatigued driving.

Even at the 45th Space Wing, we are not immune. Last year, one of our fellow Airmen decided to take a three-hour drive to visit family after working an 11-hour shift. He spent four hours socializing with family (no alcohol was consumed) and proceeded to drive back to base. During this drive back home, after 18 hours of being awake, he fell asleep and rolled his vehicle multiple times. Fortunately, he was wearing his seatbelt and walked away
uninjured. This is why we need to take an active approach in preventing driving while fatigued or in a distracted state.

Plan your trip ahead. Pulling over when you are feeling tired, taking a break for every 100 miles driven and having a passenger for conversation and to help with driving are all preventive measures. Most importantly, do not supplement energy drinks for sleep. Although you may feel "sped up," you are not alert.

Increase your awareness by getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep prior to getting on the highway. Bottom line, you put yourself and others
at risk by pushing yourself to the limit. Let's adhere to the motto "Drive Alert ...Arrive Alive!"