Drive Safe: Avoiding Drowsy, Drugged, Drunk and Distracted Driving

Follow these practical tips from AAA.

Reflection in rearview mirror of a man yawning in a car iStock

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s American Driving Survey revealed that Americans drove 2.8 trillion miles in 2022. With this much activity happening on our nation’s roads, it’s important to remember the “Four Ds” to avoid when you’re behind the wheel.

Drowsy Driving

Although it’s underrepresented in government research, drowsy driving is a major cause of crashes. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s report, drowsy driving is estimated to play a role in 16% to 20% of fatal crashes.

The top danger associated with drowsy driving is falling asleep at the wheel, which causes the driver to swerve off the road, drift into other lanes and neglect to brake.

The report also found that drivers rarely took breaks unless they felt severely drowsy. However, even when drivers rated their drowsiness as low, 75% were, in reality, moderately to severely drowsy.

Look out for signs of drowsiness such as having trouble keeping your eyes open, drifting from your lane or not remembering the last few miles of your trip. To better avoid these warning signs altogether, travel during times when you’re normally awake, avoid heavy foods before driving and avoid medications that may cause drowsiness.

When possible, travel with a partner so you can take turns. Or if you’re alone, pull over to rest.

Drugged Driving

The National Institute on Drug Abuse noted teens and older adults as the most likely groups to be affected by drugged driving, making this an issue that affects all ages.

Since over-the-counter and prescription drugs may pose the risk of impaired driving, always ask your doctor and pharmacist if it’s safe to drive after taking a medication. Also be sure to avoid social situations where you might become impaired by illegal drugs before driving home.

Drunk Driving

Drunk driving is defined as “a blood alcohol content (BAC) greater than or equal to 0.08% (mass of alcohol per volume of blood in the body)” by the US Department of Transportation.

How does this translate into the number of drinks you can safely consume? The answer depends on your biological sex and bodyweight, as well as the number of drinks you’ve had over a certain amount of time. To visualize what this might look like, put together an infographic to show how X drinks might affect you over Y hours.

If you’re drinking, hand your keys to a designated driver or call a ride home to stay safe.

Take this quiz to see how much you know about drunk driving. ‘

Pull quote that states “Reading or sending a text while driving 55 mph is like driving blindfolded for the length of a football field.”

Distracted Driving

Reading or sending a text while driving 55 mph is like driving blindfolded for the length of a football field. (Take this AAA quiz to learn more unexpected facts about distracted driving.)

Besides the cell phone, there are other distractions to be mindful of are the radio, navigational systems and even the passengers in your car.

Not all these things are inherently dangerous, but, if they prove a distraction, there can be fatal consequences. In 2021 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported over 3,500 traffic fatalities due to distracted driving.

Before you hit the road, set your navigation, store your phone away and set your expectations for your passengers.

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