Driving under the influence and distracted driving are well-known hazards, but few people think twice about getting behind the wheel when feeling drowsy, a sleep expert warns. “Drivers can reduce the danger by being aware of risk factors and taking precautions,” said Dr. Praveen Rudraraju, who directs the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. Each year, nearly 100,000 traffic crashes can be attributed to drowsy driving, including more than 1,500 deaths and over 70,000 injuries, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Most drowsy driving accidents occur between midnight and 6 a.m. among drivers who are alone in their vehicle. Risk factors for drowsy driving include: sleep loss — even just one hour less than you need; use of sleep aids, anti-anxiety medications or alcohol; driving long hours with few or no breaks, driving alone or with sleeping passengers; and having undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of drowsy driving, Rudaraju said. Don’t consume alcohol and don’t take sedatives. If you feel drowsy when driving, find a safe place to pull over and nap. But even though a short nap can help, it’s best to get proper sleep. Talk to your doctor about problems falling or staying asleep, especially if you are tired after a…  read on >

Before you head out for a sunny summer getaway, get familiar with the signs of heat-related illnesses. Once at your destination, build in time for your body to adjust to the climate. If you’re lounging by the water and taking only short walks, your risk of a heat illness is low. But if you’re not in great shape and aren’t used to the heat, beware of strenuous activities like hiking and biking. Your body’s cooling system could fail if you’re in high temperatures and humidity for too long, sweating heavily, and not drinking the right fluids. Toss in a few fruity alcoholic beverages and you could be thrown for a loop. Respect your fitness level. If you’re out of shape, go slow, even for fun activities like kayaking. Take frequent breaks. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink bottled water. And don’t forget the sunscreen. Heat-related illnesses include: Heat cramps: painful muscle contractions, usually after exercising in the heat. Heat syncope: lightheadedness or fainting caused by high temperatures. Exercise-associated collapse: lightheadedness or fainting right after exercising. Heat exhaustion: body temperature as high as 104 Fahrenheit with cold, clammy skin, headache, weakness, nausea and vomiting. Heat stroke: the above symptoms plus a body temperature over 104 F; you may no longer be able to sweat to cool yourself. Preventing heat-related illnesses: Give yourself time to…  read on >

Motorcycles are still deadlier than cars, but there’s some good news: Nearly 6 percent fewer bikers died on U.S. roads last year than in 2016, a new report says. Preliminary data indicate that there were 4,990 motorcyclist fatalities in the United States in 2017 — which is 296 fewer than the year before, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). But even with that reduction, motorcyclists account for a disproportionate amount of all traffic deaths. Deaths per mile traveled are 28 times higher among motorcyclists than among people in passenger vehicles, the report noted. “Motorcyclist fatality numbers have fluctuated from year to year over the past decade,” said report author Tara Casanova Powell. “While we are cautiously optimistic about this projection, we really need to see a sustained trend downward toward eventually eliminating motorcyclist fatalities altogether,” she said in a GHSA news release. Last year, motorcyclist deaths fell in 30 states, remained the same in two states and rose in 18 states, according to the report. In 2016, one-quarter of motorcyclists who died had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, the highest percentage of any vehicle type. Data suggest that trend continued in 2017. Several states had an increase in distracted riding-related motorcycle deaths in recent years. And one state (Virginia) had more than double the number of such deaths between 2016…  read on >

Hit-and-run deaths in the United States reached a record high in 2016, a new report shows. “Hit-and-run crashes in the United States are trending in the wrong direction,” said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Our analysis shows that hit-and-run crashes are a growing traffic safety challenge and the AAA Foundation would like to work with all stakeholders to help curtail this problem,” he added in a news release from the foundation. Hit-and-run deaths in the United States rose an average of 7 percent a year since 2009, with more than 2,000 deaths reported in 2016. That’s the highest number on record and a 60 percent increase since 2009, the authors of the report said. The highest per-capita rates of such deaths were in New Mexico, Louisiana and Florida, while the lowest rates were in New Hampshire, Maine and Minnesota. Nearly 65 percent of people killed in hit-and-runs in the United States are pedestrians and bicyclists. Over the past 10 years, nearly 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths were due to hit-and-runs. That’s compared to just 1 percent of all driver deaths in that same time period. Since 2006, there has been an average of 682,000 hit-and-run accidents a year according to the findings, which were released April 26. Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations for AAA, said that “it…  read on >

Even though they know it’s dangerous, many American drivers still talk on a cellphone or text while behind the wheel, a new survey finds. In fact, the number of drivers who say they talk regularly or fairly often on their cellphone while driving has actually risen 46 percent since 2013, the pollsters say. More than 2,600 licensed drivers, aged 16 and older, were questioned for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey. Nearly 58 percent said talking on a cellphone while driving is a very serious threat to their safety, while 78 percent said texting is a significant danger. Yet nearly half of the respondents said they recently talked on a hand-held phone while driving. And more than one-third had sent a text or email while driving, according to the survey. “With more than 37,000 deaths on U.S. roads in 2016, we need to continue finding ways to limit driving distractions and improve traffic safety,” said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The foundation’s work offers insight on drivers’ attitudes toward traffic safety and their behaviors, so we can better understand the issue and identify potential countermeasures to reduce crashes,” he added in a foundation news release. Drivers talking on a cellphone are up to four times more likely to crash, and those who text are up to eight times…  read on >

One-third of young adults in the United States have been in a vehicle with a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs, a new study finds. Riding with a marijuana-impaired driver was more common than riding with an alcohol-impaired driver, researchers found. “We’ve put a lot of emphasis on drinking and driving, but less effort on driving under the influence of marijuana. Maybe we need more of the latter,” said study lead author Kaigang Li. “Parents should be a role model by not driving while impaired, and real friends should stop their friends from driving after using substances — if using substances cannot be stopped,” said Li, an assistant professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University. For the study, the researchers analyzed 2013-2014 national survey data gathered from young adults who graduated high school within the past two years. Thirty-three percent reported riding with an impaired driver at least once in the previous year. Of those, 23 percent said they were with a pot-impaired driver, and 20 percent were with a booze-impaired driver. Six percent said they had ridden with a driver hampered by drugs other than marijuana, including ecstasy, amphetamines, opiates, cocaine/crack cocaine, glue or solvents, LSD or anabolic steroids. The findings were published in the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. “Emerging adults are entering the…  read on >