Sleep Deprivation And Traffic Accidents

Sleep Deprivation and Traffic Accidents
Ten years ago, a​ former colleague of​ mine, a​ fine teacher and person, was tragically killed in​ a​ car accident in​ British Columbia. He was on vacation with his daughter who miraculously survived the accident. What happened was a​ classic case of​ sleep deprivation my friend was anxious to​ make his way to​ a​ chosen destination and despite his fatigue and the fact that he had been on the road for over 6 hours, he made the decision to​ drive through the night. He never made it​ there.
That there is​ a​ direct correlation between sleep deprivation and traffic accidents cannot be disputed. in​ 1998, 24,318 deaths were cited from accidents related to​ sleep deprivation in​ the US. There were as​ well 2, 474,430 disabling injuries resulting from accidents where decreased mental efficiency and attentiveness due to​ sleep loss was the major causative factor. in​ fact, a​ major review conducted in​ 1996 suggested that the oil spill of​ the Exxon Valdez, the destruction of​ the space shuttle Challenger, the nuclear accident at​ Chernobyl costing over 50,000 lives and the near nuclear accidents at​ the Three Mile Island and Peach Bottom reactors were all associated with sleep deprivation of​ the personnel involved.
Sleep deprivation is​ often caused by sleep disorders which are unknown to​ the subjects themselves. Sleep apnea, for example, is​ a​ common cause for sleep deficit. a​ study at​ the Sleep Disorders and Research Center of​ Stanford University Medical School showed that truck drivers identified with sleep disordered breathing had a​ twofold higher accident rate than drivers without sleepdisordered breathing. Sleep disordered breathing, commonly known as​ sleep apnea, affects 15 million people in​ the United States. This condition, characterized by suffocation and oxygen deprivation which wake the subjects up several times in​ the course of​ the night, is​ responsible for daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Put these subjects on the highway and we have a​ recipe for disastrous traffic accidents.
Perhaps an examination of​ the influence sleep deprivation has on our mental acuity and performance level can shed light on how we can protect ourselves and others from the disastrous consequences of​ sleep fatigue.
What happens to​ you when you are sleep deprived? According to​ the Traffic Research Center, these are the influences of​ sleep deprivation on performance
a Slower reaction time sleeplessness slows down your reflexes; reaction time slows down, preventing you from stopping in​ times of​ danger.
b Decrease in​ concentration levels When you are overly tired, your attention span decreases. Most people are subject to​ a​ decrease in​ attention every 90120 minutes; however, sleepiness makes this decrease even worse and it​ can cause accidents when you fall asleep at​ the wheel.
c Disorder in​ information processing Sleepiness is​ very much like being under the influence of​ ​alcohol​ or​ ​Drug​s. When you are sleepy, your mental and psychomotor skills diminish. in​ one study, a​ group of​ subjects were kept awake for 28 hours; another group was given alcoholic drinks every half hour. When both groups were tested for handeye coordination, the ones who were sleep deprived performed equally bad as​ the ones with 0. 5 blood ​alcohol​ level.
What are the factors that have a​ direct effect on a​ driver’s tiredness?
a The amount of​ time the driver has been on the road. When a​ driver has been on the road for 8 or​ more hours, his driving performance is​ impaired. The risk of​ accidents increases.
b The amount of​ sleep the driver had the night before. Not having any sleep for 16 hours has a​ serious impact on driving performance. Research shows that the sleeping period of​ drivers who are involved in​ road accidents are shorter than the ones of​ those who had sufficient sleep.
c Sleep disorders and Obesity. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea or​ narcolepsy in​ truck drivers are a​ major risk factor. in​ the same Stanford University Study mentioned above, even weight can seriously affect the frequency of​ traffic accidents. Obese drivers with a​ body mass more than 30 kg also presented a​ twofold higher accident rate than nonobese drivers.
d Environmental factors. The lack of​ resting and parking facilities for drivers is​ another factor that contributes to​ the accident rate.
What can we do to​ ensure that we get adequate sleep?
a Set up a​ bedtime ritual—the same time to​ bed, the same routines like reading in​ bed or​ listening to​ relaxing music.
b See your doctor if​ you have snoring or​ breathing problems, daytime fatigue, morning headaches, night time choking episodes. You could have sleep apnea which can be treated with new devices and technology.
c if​ you are overweight, take the steps to​ bring down your weight. Obesity is​ a​ common factor in​ sleeplessness.
d Get into a​ routine of​ exercise during the day. Do not exercise after 7Pm as​ the activity could be over stimulating and prevent you from sleeping.
A simple thing like sleep is​ nothing to​ be dismissed. More and more studies are revealing a​ direct link between our nighttime and daytime experiences.

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