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How Drowsy Driving Affects Motorcyclists

As sleep deprivation becomes a growing problem so too does drowsy driving. Motorcyclists are at a greater risk of personal injury or death if they find themselves drowsy or involved with a drowsy driver. Therefore, increased awareness of sleep along with a keen eye for the signs of a drowsy driver can help motorcyclists stay safe while on the road.

At-Risk for Drowsiness

Whether you’re behind the wheel or on a bike, you may be at higher risk for drowsy driving. Any person whose occupation puts them on the road late at night, early in the morning, or in the late afternoon has an increased risk of drowsy driving. For example, truck drivers, who drive long hours day after day, are at the highest risk. They also operate some of the largest vehicles on the road. Motorcyclists have to be keenly aware of their positioning of these vehicles, especially at times when drowsy driving could be at work.

Medical professionals and business travelers are also at high risk for drowsy driving. They often keep odd hours that work against the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Motorcyclists aren’t immune to drowsy driving themselves. Working late, a long day, or odd travel times can have just as much effect while on a motorcycle. The difference is that a motorcycle doesn’t offer the same protections as a vehicle.

Drowsy Drivers are Impaired Drivers

No matter what kind of vehicle you drive, drowsy driving is impaired driving. Without sleep, the brain can’t cleanse itself of proteins that block communication pathways. The brain’s neurons also slow the rate at which they send messages. Additionally, the brain releases adenosine to further slow the brain so that it has to slip into a sleep state.

Collectively, the effects of sleep deprivation slow the reaction times and decision-making abilities necessary for safe driving. In fact, studies have shown that drowsy driving is comparable to driving while under the influence. Whether drowsy or drunk, sporadic speed changes, drifting, and poor driving decisions are present. Both are deadly with anywhere from 700 to 1,500 drowsy driving-related deaths and 6,400 drowsy driving-related accidents reported each year.

Yet, drowsiness is largely preventable.

Drowsy Driving Accident Prevention

Motorcyclists need to be keenly aware of the signs of drowsy driving. It’s easy to spot in that it often looks like drunk driving. These drivers may drive slowly for a time then suddenly speed up only to find themselves losing speed all over again. Drifting out of their lane while going full speed is another indication that drowsiness is at work.

Be particularly suspicious if it’s late at night, early morning, or late in the afternoon. Motorcyclists who encounter a driver with these symptoms should steer clear. Do not try to pass. Take another route or stay well behind them for your own safety.

You can prevent your own drowsiness by getting a full seven to nine hours of sleep every day. Start with comfort. Your mattress and pillow(s) should keep your spine aligned throughout the night. Be sure the bedroom is sufficiently cool, dark, and quiet so distractions don’t keep you awake.

A consistent schedule both at night and in the morning helps establish a regular behavioral pattern for the brain to follow. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day both on weekdays and weekends. Turn off the television early and dim the lights in the evening. Blue spectrum light and bright light, in general, can suppress sleep hormones.

Above all, make sleep a priority. When sleep matters, you’ll make time for it. And for your safety and other drivers on the road, you need it.