Take the Pledge to Not Drive Drowsy #TakeABreakToStayAwake
“Don’t Drink and Drive.”
“Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk”
"Choose a designated driver."
You’ve probably heard these phrases many times – they’re part of a broader campaign to curb the epidemic of drunk driving that leads to thousands of deaths in the United States each year.
Awareness around the dangers of drunk driving – and just as important, awareness about how we can prevent it -- came about because of the deliberate effort to reframe the issue as a public health crisis. And it has been a tremendous success.
But there’s a similarly deadly menace on our roads — one given far less attention.
Recent studies have shown that “drowsy driving,” or driving tired after too little sleep, is just as dangerous as drunk driving. Drowsy driving is tied to 1.2 million car crashes per year, and results in up to 500,000 injuries and 8,000 deaths.
Driving after being awake for 18 hours gives you the cognitive impairment equal to a blood alcohol level of .05 (near the legal limit in the US), and after 24 hours without sleep it’s up to .10 (legally drunk). Just like being drunk, fatigue dulls your decision-making skills, reaction time, situational awareness and memory -- all of which create a perfect, and deadly, storm when getting behind the wheel.
The attitudes toward sleep that fuel this epidemic run deep within our culture. We often praise those who pull all-nighters, celebrate those who manage to only sleep a couple of hours a night, and validate the macho status that comes from pushing ourselves to the limits. But we need a wakeup call.
I had my own wakeup call in April of 2007 when I collapsed at work from exhaustion, hitting my head on my desk, breaking my cheek bone, and waking up in a pool of my own blood. Thankfully I was not behind the wheel of a car at the time.
Many others are not so lucky.
The tragedy is that each one of these deaths is preventable. But the good news is that the solutions are completely within our grasp. Today, technology makes it easy to get a ride whenever you need one. Ridesharing companies like Uber -- with whom we are partnering in our campaign against drowsy driving -- will take you wherever you need to go at the push of a button. So there's no reason to get behind the wheel when you're tired.
So please join me in taking the pledge to not drive drowsy, to not let your friends and family drive drowsy, and to join the effort to bring the same attention to drowsy driving as we brought to drunk driving.
When we do, we can succeed not only in raising awareness, but in saving lives.