In an effort to combat drowsy driving, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine is calling for better education on the symptoms.
The organization also is calling for more research to understand the thresholds for when sleepiness while driving becomes dangerous.
“Driving while drowsy can have the same consequences as driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol: drowsiness is similar to alcohol in how it compromises driving ability by reducing alertness and attentiveness, delaying reaction times, and hindering decision-making skills,” the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) said in a policy statement published Nov. 11, 2015, in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (doi: 10.5664/jcsm.5200).
AASM is incorporating drowsy driving education online as part of its broader National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project.
The group identified a number of symptoms of drowsy driving, including frequent yawning or difficulty keeping eyes open, “nodding off” or difficulty keeping your head up, inability to remember driving the last few miles, missing road signs or turns, difficulty maintaining speed, and drifting out of your driving lane.
AASM is calling for collaboration among sleep physicians, state departments of motor vehicles and licensing, highway patrol, and the insurance industry to develop policies and procedures that reduce drowsy driving, educational material to be used in driver’s education and licensing examination, drowsy driving educational insurance discount programs, and manufacturing and infrastructure technologies that mitigate drowsy driving.
In addition, AASM “encourages more research that better defines indicators of drowsy driving, identifies the threshold at which sleepiness while driving becomes dangerous, and provides the public with simple methods to determine when they might be too tired to drive safely.”
It also warned that consumption of caffeine can temporarily increase alertness but is not a substitute for healthy sleep, and things like turning on the radio, opening the window, or turning on the air conditioner “are not effective techniques for staying awake while driving.”