KHP battles drowsy driving

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Kansas Highway Patrol is partnering with the National Sleep Foundation in support of the second annual Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, Nov. 10-16. The purpose is to focus on saving lives by raising awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving.

"It is important to practice safe driving habits, and not operating a vehicle when you're tired should be one of those. Sleep deprivation has proven dangerous on our roads. Lack of sleep can impair crucial driving skills, such as hand-eye coordination, reaction times, awareness of surroundings, decision-making, and inhibition," said Patrol Superintendent Colonel Terry Maple.

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol there were 735 vehicle accidents in Kansas attributed to drowsy drivers in 2007. This is down from 818 crashes in 2006 and 827 crashes in 2005. Each year for the past five years, the number of crashes attributed to a sleepy driver has declined, however, it is still important to continue to raise awareness of the issue.

In 2007 alone, the costs associated with crashes caused by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel were $87,981,900.

Falling asleep while driving can be considered reckless driving, which is a misdemeanor and punishable by imprisonment, fines, or both upon the first offense.

"We've all been guilty of it but let me tell you, its not worth it," said Bourbon County Sheriff Harold Coleman.

The Kansas Highway Patrol gives these tips to help prevent falling asleep at the wheel:

* Get enough sleep. Most adults need 7-9 hours, and most teens need 8.5-9.5 hours to maintain proper alertness during the day.

* Schedule proper breaks once ever 100 miles or every two hours during long trips.

* Arrange for a travel companion if possible, someone to talk with and share the driving.

* Avoid alcohol and sedating medications. Check your labels or ask your doctor.

* Watch for the warning signs of fatigue.

Warning signs of fatigue include turning up the radio or rolling the window down; impaired reaction time; decreased performance or motivation; daydreaming; yawning or rubbing your eyes; drifting from your lane, tailgating, missing signs or exits; felling restless, irritable, or aggressive; or trouble focusing, keeping your eyes open or your head up.

The Kansas Highway Patrol recommends drivers to take the following precautions when feeling fatigue or are experiencing any of the warning signs while driving:

* Stop driving. Pull off at the next exit or rest area or find a place to sleep for the night.

* Take a nap. Find a safe place and take a 15-20 minute nap. More than 20 minutes can make you groggy.

* Let a passenger take over driving.

For more information about the drowsy driving campaign go to