Driving tired, with under 6 hours of sleep per night, increases vehicle accident risk
In the USA the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that “drowsy driving” is responsible for a lot of vehicle crashes, deaths and injuries. Evidence from the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) in the USA shows that getting 6 hours of sleep a night or less more than doubles your chances of falling asleep at the wheel. It seems likely that most accidents to sleepy drivers happen between midnight and 6 am, although late afternoon also has a spike in incidents. Many UK airports are allowed night flights, eg. Gatwick, Stansted, East Midlands etc. This is going to increasingly be a problem for people affected by the noise from Heathrow planes. Already planes taking off, heading away, may be heard routinely till 11pm (often later) on some routes. Each morning planes can be hear arriving from about 4.20am. That does not leave anyone who is sensitive to the noise enough time for healthy sleep. There are many known health risks, of noise disturbance during the times people are sleeping, or trying to. The risk of more vehicle accidents, to those who are woken up an hour or two before they want to wake, is another cost of aircraft noise. The loss of quality of life, and the health costs, need to be part of the calculation of the economics of a 3rd Heathrow runway.
DANGERS OF DROWSY/FATIGUED/ TIRED DRIVING
The feeling may be familiar: you’re driving along late a night on a near-empty road. It’s warm, and you’re feeling comfortable. You’re feeling relaxed when suddenly your eyes start to get heavy and you find yourself losing concentration.
If so, you’re not alone. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 25 adult drivers (18 years or older) report having fallen asleep in the last month.
In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that “drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013.”
THE NUMBERS MAY ACTUALLY BE EVEN HIGHER; SOME REPORTS SUGGEST UP TO 6,000 FATAL CRASHES EACH YEAR MAY BE THE RESULT OF TIRED DRIVERS.
Snoring is a major correlatory factor, indicating potential sleep apnea, and a general loss of sleep quality. One of the most common recommendations from the CDC and the NHTSA is for drivers who regularly experience drowsiness to get a medical checkup, as there are often underlying medical issues when sleep quality is diminished.
Studies are still relatively new in the field, but one hypothesis is that blue light tricks the brain into perceiving daylight and therefore upsetting the release of the chemical melatonin in the brain. This plays a major role in sleep quality.
THE STATISTICS ON
Although drowsy driving can occur at any time and any place, there are certain profiles of a drowsy driving incident. Statistics show that the following three factors usually play a role in drowsy driving crashes, which usually happen:
WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO DRIVE DROWSY?
Studies have consistently shown that driving drowsy regularly affects the same segments of the population. If you fit one of these profiles, then you should examine your driving habits to see if you’re guilty of driving while drowsy.
Those who drive vehicles like tow trucks, tractors trailers and buses have to drive for a living, so a poor night’s sleep, or illness, does not give them the option to work from home. In addition, those who work long hours are more likely to be pushing themselves beyond their limits. In particular, long-distance truck drivers are likely to strive to reach their destination rather than resting.
People who work the night or evening shifts often have disrupted sleep patterns, and have upset their circadian rhythm. This makes them far more likely to be driving while drowsy, particularly during the late night/early morning hours.
DRIVERS WITH SLEEP APNEA
An estimated 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, with 80% being undiagnosed. This means that there are around 18 million drivers who are susceptible to sleep apnea without them even realizing it.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American commute time is 26 minutes each way, or nearly 1 hour a day. For those who have longer commutes, often requiring them to get up early and get home late, there is a real danger of drowsy driving.