The first week following a time change in the spring or fall can leave everyone a little befuddled from lack of sleep and it takes time for the body to adjust to the shift. While we may have more energy in the evening as the days grow longer, the mornings may seem to come far too early and once again we are getting out of bed in the dark.
And if all this sleeplessness has left you feeling drowsy behind the wheel, there may soon be a car that will detect fatigue and alert the driver before they end up in an accident. According to a recent New York Times report, drowsy driving caused 824 deaths in 2015. Auto makers including Audi, Mercedes and Volvo currently have a “drowsiness detection system” that warns drivers if they veer from their lane or the steering wheel angle changes suddenly.
Older adults getting behind the wheel may also experience drowsiness as result of prescription or over-the-counter medications. Be sure to discuss all side effects and drug interactions with your doctor or pharmacist before getting behind the wheel. Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as driving drunk or distracted driving.
Research is also under way to develop automotive systems that monitor heart rate, body temperature and changes in breathing that will alert the driver that their body is ready for sleep, even when they don’t yet feel tired. And while a fully capable self-driving car is still a ways off, Audi is scheduled to introduce a car next year that can drive up to 35 miles per hour independently when the Traffic Jam Pilot feature is activated. Before the car switches back to the driver’s control, sensors will scan the head and face to make sure the driver is awake and alert.
Despite the best efforts of manufacturers to develop cars that help drivers avoid accidents, driving drowsy is a problem best solved by taking a break and stopping for a nap followed by a strong cup of coffee before getting back on the road.
To learn more about safe driving in older age and for an online self-evaluation tool, visit AAA by following this link.