The reality of drowsy driving

Photo by Kaatje Henrick

Michael Bromby is tired from a long drive in to school.

“It was the scariest moment of my life,” says Dylan Devera, 23, of Brampton. “My eyes were open one second, then the next, my eyes closed, I didn’t even realize they were closed until they shot open and I was driving 120 and I was in the slow lane.”

Devera had just finished a 13-hour shift when he hit a city bus after falling asleep at the wheel. The accident happened on the 410 around 3:15p.m. last November.

“I knew I had fallen asleep because I was driving 80 kilometers an hour and when my eyes opened back up, I was driving 120 kilometers an hour,” says Devera.

Dr. Anne Wheaton of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study on the number of people who fall asleep at the wheel.

She says one in 25 adults in the U.S. have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.

“If you look at the people you’re driving on the road with, it’s one out of 25 of those people that fell asleep, and not just drowsy and sleepy, but physically fell asleep,” said Wheaton in a recent interview.

According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation(TIRF), driving drowsy can happen at any time during the day. Something called “Micro-sleep” is just one scary side effect that comes with driving drowsy.

Micro-sleep is an action controlled by the brain. The brain lets the body know it has not had enough rest.

It shuts off parts of the brain because the brain has been running for too long, according to Wheaton.

She says the brain starts to slow down because it’s over tired, which is why the reaction time decreases.

“The average adult needs approximately seven hours of sleep, the range is from six to eight hours a night for the body to have a full rest,” says Wheaton.

She says the information will be processed at a slower rate, and drivers will have less concentration without enough rest.

Some signs of drowsy driving are yawning, blinking quite often, starting to drift off the road, or even speeding.

“Those rumble strips on the side of the highways are put there in order to avoid driving drowsy accidents. It’s to wake you up, and let you know that you’re driving off the side of the road,” says Wheaton.

There are legal consequences to drowsy driving. Provincial and criminal charges can be laid if a person is found guilty of driving while overtired, according to TIRF.

A study conducted by TIRF on drowsy driving used RCMP and OPP officers to establish the problem.

At least 83 per cent of officers said they had pulled someone over on suspicion of driving impaired, only to find out that the citizen was just drowsy and losing control of the vehicle.

To avoid drowsy driving, Wheaton suggests getting the right amount of sleep. Short term relief of drowsy driving can happen by opening windows, talking out loud, or even changing the radio station.

TIRF says drowsy driving is a serious problem and more needs to be done to make the public aware.

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Kaatje is a Durham Journalism student. She enjoy's reading, writing. She uses her writing as way to express things. She enjoy's being in nature and writing about it.