In case you didn’t know, turning up the air conditioning when you’re drowsy behind the wheel doesn’t relieve driver fatigue. Nor for that matter does playing loud music, smoking, opening a window or splashing water on your face.
Yet these are precisely the types of ineffective actions tired drivers take to stay awake, according to a survey by automotive marketing group DMEautomotive (DMEa).
It seems that people are resorting to some odd – and scientifically flawed – tactics to make up for insufficient sleep, an issue the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes as a “public health epidemic” and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says leads to more than 100,000 crashes, 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths per year.
In fact, the DMEa survey shows that of the top 15 things drivers say they do to fight driver fatigue, only two of them – switching drivers and pulling over to take a nap – are sound strategies.
Some of the others, such as drinking caffeine, slapping oneself, eating, singing and smoking may give the impression of renewed alertness, but aren’t likely to have a significant safety impact. Younger drivers (those under age 35) are significantly more likely than older drivers to take such ineffective measures.
DMEa conducted its survey of 2,000 car owners in the wake of the fatigued trucking accident that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed his friend Jimmy Mack. The company notes that more than half of Americans are taking road trips this summer, and most plan on driving 7 or more hours per day, which could mean more drowsy drivers on the road.
“The recent crash involving Tracy Morgan was tragic, and draws attention to dangerous driving behavior that doesn’t get taken nearly as seriously as drinking or texting while driving,” said Mary Sheridan, DMEa’s Director of Research and Analytics.
Mike Martinez, the chief marketing officer of DMEa, agrees that driver fatigue gets short shrift as a traffic hazard. Americans, he says, “have had the dangers of drunk driving and texting while driving drilled into them, but they remain asleep about the dangers of drowsy driving,” he told USA Today.
Distraction.gov, the official US Government website for distracted driving, reports that 421,000 people were injured and 3,328 were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2012. During the same year, according to NHTSA, there were 10,322 fatal drunk driving crashes.
Tracy Morgan is suing Wal-Mart – the employer of the allegedly fatigued truck driver who crashed into his limo van on June 7 – for damages. The lawsuit claims that the trucker had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the accident.
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