'Drowsy driving' is deadly. And Uber is taking action.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Uber has issued a new rule with the goal of keeping tired drivers off the road: The company will now restrict drivers to 12-hour shifts before the app automatically shuts off, forcing them to take a six-hour break. The measure will hopefully limit the temptation of “drowsy driving.”

The dangers of drunk driving have been drilled into our heads, but researchers note that “drowsy driving” is an equally preventable danger on the roads. In 2016, the National Sleep Foundation surveyed drivers over a two-week period with the shocking results that roughly 7 million U.S. drivers had nodded off while at the wheel in that two-week time span.

According to Self magazine, drowsy driving manifests as difficulty keeping your head up or your eyes open, or losing the ability to focus on the world around you. Like drunk driving, drowsy driving is a leading cause of car accidents. A report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that drowsy driving is responsible for 7 percent of all vehicular crashes and 16.5 percent of all fatal vehicular crashes. Those statistics translate to about 6,000 deaths due to drowsy driving in 2016 — a number that may be underreported, as it’s harder to test for drowsiness at the scene of an accident. Compare that to the 10,497 deaths due to drunk driving in 2016.

Kerrie Warne, whose son Tyler died in a drowsy driving accident, is working to raise awareness about the issue with an initiative called Tyler Raising Education/Awareness for Driving Drowsy (TYREDD, pronounced “tired”). Warne says she educated Tyler about dangers on the road but didn’t even think to mention drowsy driving. “We talked with him about everything we were educated about as parents,” she told Self. “It never even crossed my mind to have a conversation with him about drowsy driving.” Now, Warne wants to make sure other parents don’t make the same mistake.

The National Sleep Foundation has a few hacks for drivers who may get sleepy on the road. The recommendations include some common sense rules — drink coffee, avoid consuming alcohol, and don’t drive between midnight and 6 a.m. — along with advice such as taking a nap before a long drive.

Medication can also cause sleepiness, both in general and behind the wheel, so be sure to consider the side effects of any medications before getting on the road. Above all, if you’re feeling sleepy, pull over. There’s a lot on the line.

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