Expert: Drowsy driving and record traffic not a good mix this holiday
According to a recent report from AAA, this Thanksgiving will be the busiest for travel since 2007. Virginia Tech transportation expert Jeff Hickman points out that crash risk increases during long trips and when more vehicles share the roadway.
A chief concern with holiday travel is drowsy driving. With nearly 50 million Americans expected to travel, Hickman offers some advice for drivers to avoid fatigue.
Avoid driving during rush hour and from 2 a.m - 4 a.m.
Crash risk increases during morning and evening rush hours and when circadian rhythm is at its lowest from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. This desire to sleep during the circadian low is greater when someone is sleep deprived. This time period can be particularly dangerous.
Be sure to get full nights sleep.
Getting a restful night sleep of at least seven to eight hours before a long trip is critical to avoid drowsiness. However, if a driver has many days of insufficient sleep, one night’s rest may not be enough. It will take several days of restful sleep to get over the sleep debt.
Pay attention to signs of drowsy driving.
Watch for signs of drowsy driving such as slow eyelid closures, yawning, gentle swaying of the head, seat fidgeting, difficulty staying in your lane, difficulty maintaining speed, and delayed reactions.
Other factors impacting drowsy driving:
Situations that increase drowsiness are driving alone, monotonous road conditions (such as long straightaways with limited changes in the environment), long drives, and extended periods of heavy traffic.
Hickman leads the Behavioral Analysis and Applications Group at Virginia Tech. He has served as a scientific reviewer for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and currently serves as a reviewer for the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Accident Analysis and Prevention, Traffic Injury Prevention, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, and the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management.
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