After years of public education campaigns, it's ingrained in the minds of most people that drinking and driving don't mix. But scientists say that motorists, physicians and government officials all need to realize that sleepy drivers can be just as deadly as drunk ones.
Public health officials should devote more education and research to protect drivers from falling asleep at the wheel, says a report published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. And physicians, the study adds, must help prevent sleep-related accidents by identifying symptoms of fatigue or sleep deprivation.
Danger Signs for Drowsy Drivers:
* Your eyes close or go out of focus by themselves.
* You have trouble keeping your head up.
* You can't stop yawning.
* You have wandering, disconnected thoughts.
* You don't remember the last few miles.
* You drift between lanes, tailgate or miss traffic signs.
* You keep jerking the car back into the lane.
* You have drifted off the road and narrowly missed crashing.
Those at Risk Include:
* Sleep-deprived drivers.
* People who travel long distances without breaks.
* Drivers who travel through the night or at other times when they are normally asleep.
* People who drink alcohol or take medication that increases sleepiness.
* People who drive alone.
* Drivers on long, rural, boring roads.
* Frequent travelers, such as business travelers.
* Young people.
* Shift workers.
* Commercial truck drivers.
* People with undiagnosed, untreated sleep disorders.
Sources: National Sleep Foundation; AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety