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Drowsy driving among older adults a literature review.

M-CASTL 2010-04

Authors: Nicole Zanier, David W. Eby, J. Todd Arnedt, Lisa J. Molnar, Anita Shelgikar, Renee St. Louis, Toni Antonucci, James S. Jackson, Jacob Nelson, Lindsay Ryan, Jacqui Smith

The goals of this literature review are to better understand the risk factors associated with drowsy driving, particularly those strongly affecting the older driver population, and to serve as the background information for the development of a questionnaire on this topic. The review is divided into two main sections: drowsy driving risk factors and countermeasures. Topics reviewed in the risk factors section include: sleep deprivation and disorders, medications that may cause drowsiness as a side effect, work schedules, circadian rhythm, personality attributes, alcohol use, lifestyle, and environmental characteristics. Topics reviewed in the countermeasures section included: common practices (e.g. turning up the volume of the radio), caffeine, napping, sleep disorder treatments, lifestyle, work schedules, alertness maintenance and in-vehicle technology. Emphasis was placed on finding studies performed on older drivers, although studies done on younger or middle-aged drivers were not excluded. Sleep disorders and various medical conditions and medications that may cause drowsiness are prevalent in the older population, putting older drivers at an increased risk of a drowsy driving crash. The circadian rhythm creates a risk for those driving between the hours of midnight and 6:00 AM and again in the mid-afternoon. Unusual work schedules, certain personality traits, alcohol use, and lifestyle practices (e.g. smoking) and monotonous road conditions may all lead to driver sleepiness and crash risk. Common practices to combat drowsy driving such as rolling down a window or turning up the radio's volume are not effective in combating drowsiness. Caffeine intake may help alleviate sleepiness, especially if combined with a short nap. Many non-medication treatments may benefit older adults suffering from sleep disorders or problems, but more research is needed to ascertain whether these treatments increase driving safety.

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