April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and our highways are more congested than ever by distracted drivers. Roadways all across the nation are filling with drivers who are easily distracted by objects like their smartphones and driver fatigue.
To make matters worse, the problem is growing. Distracted driving occurred in 36% of trips nationwide, over the past 6 months, which is a 5% increase from the same time last year. Smartphones may be to blame as users are addicted, however, fatigue is also a potentially dangerous cause. While driving tired, you could be driving distracted without even knowing it.
Distracted Drivers May Have Fatigue To Blame
Drivers are tired, including those who operate small sedans during their commute to those who man massive semi trucks for a living. The culprit could be due to mental and physical fatigue involved with their usual daily routines and inability to get enough rest during the night.
To be clear, the fatigue definition states that is it extreme exhaustion, usually resulting from mental or physical exhaustion. The distracted driving definition states that it’s any activity that diverts attention from driving.
So, even though driving distracted is typically due to things like texting, eating behind the wheel, or messing with the navigation symptom, it can also be caused by fatigue. Fatigue causes poor concentration, blurred vision, inability to focus, slowed reflexes, mood swings such as irritability, and more.
All of these symptoms contribute to the inability to focus on the road and create distracted drivers. You might start to daydream, forget what you’re doing, think that reaching for your phone is a good idea, or even speed off in a state of road rage with impaired judgment.
However, the most dangerous fatigue symptom that occurs while driving, aside from simply falling asleep at the wheel, is micro naps. Micro naps are temporary episodes of sleep or drowsiness that can last from 1 to 30 seconds. During a micro-nap, you are unconscious and unable to respond, making you a distracted driver.
A lot can happen behind the wheel during thirty seconds, including losing your life. Driving drowsy should be taken seriously as a major cause of driving distracted because it actually contributes to about 72,000 crashes annually.
As we mentioned above, you may be driving drowsy without even knowing it, due to having sleep apnea, a disorder in which your breathing rapidly stops and start during the night. It prevents you from getting you the rest you need, leaving you in a state of chronic fatigue.
Managing Sleep Apnea
The symptoms of sleep apnea such as loud snoring, weight gain, waking up coughing or choking, extreme fatigue, waking up with a headache or sore throat, are often ignored. However, if sleep apnea is left untreated it can lead to life-threatening conditions such as:
- Heart Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Traffic Accidents
Luckily you can easily test for sleep apnea and manage the condition from the comfort of your own home. We can ship a home sleep test directly to your door, complete with easy to use instructions.
After you use the test for one evening you will return it and a qualified sleep physician will analyze your results and determine your sleep apnea risk. If you have sleep apnea than you will most likely use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, as it’s the most effective treatment method.
CPAPs send a constant flow of oxygen through your airways to prevent them from getting blocked and to make sure your body receives the oxygen you need to properly rest. Many feel as if their CPAP machines give them their quality of life back, with more energy, focus, and happier moods. Plus, all of the CPAP supplies you need, including the device itself can be easily shipped directly to your home and possibly covered through insurance.
Don’t Be A Distracted Driver
Take some time to think about your driving habits during Distracted Driver Awareness Month. Are you using your phone a lot during your commute? Are you yawning and struggling to wake up behind the wheel? We don’t want you to add to the wreck statistics. Stay safe, focus on the road, and get tested for sleep apnea if you think you may be at risk.