Transportation Matters in Iowa | Blog

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Message Monday - Take a break, drive awake

01/13/2020

1-13 take a breakThe holidays are over and life is moving ahead into another Iowa winter. The gray, cold days of January and February can tend to make you sleepy, especially if you’re an early riser who doesn’t see the sunlight each morning.

Getting up early and driving to work in the dark can cause us to be sleepier all day long. Sunlight triggers our bodies to stop producing the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy at night. When we don’t catch that sunlight in the morning, we can miss out on the trigger to cue your body to shift into daytime mode.

Driving when you’re drowsy can have serious consequences. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, precise numbers of drowsy-driving crashes, injuries, and fatalities are hard to nail down, but crash investigators can look for clues that drowsiness contributed to a crash, but these clues are not always identifiable or conclusive.

What NHTSA has found is that drowsy-driving crashes:

  • Occur most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m., or in the late afternoon. At both times of the day, people experience dips in their circadian rhythm—the human body’s internal clock that regulates sleep
  • Often involve only a single driver (and no passengers) running off the road at a high rate of speed with no evidence of braking
  • Frequently occur on rural roads and highways

Getting enough sleep before you get behind the wheel is the best way to combat drowsy driving. Other short-term measures like drinking a caffeinated beverage may help for a brief time but won’t help you in the long run.

You may not always realize you’re asleep. Check out “The Bizarre Phenomenon of Microsleep” - https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind/articles/2018-05-16/the-bizarre-phenomenon-of-microsleep

For 2020, there have been seven fatalities reported. As of Jan. 10, 2020, the 2019 fatality count stands at 336. This is subject to change as law enforcement reports are completed. To see statistics published daily by the Office of Driver Services, go to the daily fatality report at https://www.iowadot.gov/mvd/stats/daily.pdf


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Iowa highway in the evening