- Examine the causes and effects of drowsiness and drowsy driving
- Assess how drowsiness affects them and determine steps that they, or someone who is driving, can take to help reduce it
- Analyze information they can use to shape effective messaging for PSAs to help prevent drowsy driving for the Drive2Life Contest
- Understand the Power of Z’s activity sheet
- Internet access
Make a class set of Understand the Power of Z’s activity sheet.
Preview the following public service announcement (PSA) video from the National Road Safety Foundation to determine whether it is appropriate for your class. Too Tired to Drive (30 seconds)
1. Write the following words on the board: yawning, nodding off, rubbing eyes, can’t keep eyes open, slow blinking or staring, daydreaming. Ask students to identify what the words have in common. Discuss these and other signs or symptoms of sleepiness or exhaustion.
2. On another area of the board, ask students to write words that describe skills that are necessary for safe driving. Students could use words such as: alertness, awareness, attention to detail, focus.
3. Prompt students to compare the two sets of words to draw conclusions about drowsiness and driving. Explain that drowsy driving is driving while sleepy or fatigued.
4. Ask students to identify other signs that might indicate drivers are drowsy. Answers may include drifting into other lanes or onto the shoulder, getting too close to nearby cars, tailgating, missing road signs or exits, or not remembering what you’ve driven past.
5. Explain to students that people can, and do, fall asleep when driving. Share these drowsy driving facts with students:
- The Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that there are about 328,000 drowsy driving crashes each year in the U.S., and about 6,400 are fatal crashes.
- Signs of drowsy driving are similar to impaired or drunk driving.
- Serious damage can happen when a driver closes their eyes. And it can happen in a short amount of time. If a car is traveling 55 miles per hour, it will cover the length of a football field in about five seconds. If the driver’s eyes are closed, all kinds of danger could present itself in that time—from not realizing that other cars have stopped to running red lights or stop signs to not seeing pedestrians crossing the road.
6. Tell students that being tired affects our bodies in many ways. In addition to impairing our ability to focus, react, and make decisions, being tired also makes it difficult for us to judge how tired we really are. Ask students:
- How does your body tell you it’s time to sleep? Consider the signs.
- Answers might include the behaviors described in step 1.
- What happens when you’re tired? Think about how different you feel or act when you don’t get a good night’s sleep.
- Answers might include feeling impatient or grumpy, forgetful, or confused; having poor concentration; dropping or bumping into things.
- During the school week, how many hours of sleep do you get each night? How do you feel in the morning? Compare that with the weekend. What, if anything, is different in your sleep patterns and your drowsiness throughout the day?
- Why do you think we need sleep?
- The activity sheet provides information about what happens when we sleep, and what can happen if we don’t get enough.
7. Distribute the Understand the Power of Z’s activity sheet. As a class, review the information about the effects of too little sleep and the tips for avoiding drowsy driving. Ask:
- What did you already know?
- What’s surprising?
8. Reiterate that people can, and do, fall asleep when driving. The consequences can be serious, even deadly: Drivers can experience microsleeps while driving a car, and then suddenly several seconds have passed by unnoticed. It is not obvious to the driver that they were asleep during those missing seconds, putting the sleeping driver at a very high risk of having a crash.
9. Have students research facts about drowsy driving and signs that might indicate a driver is drowsy. Also have them research tips that drivers can use to help prevent drowsy driving. Ask students what they think is the best way to prevent drowsy driving. If your students are not yet driving, ask them to consider factors that might help them accomplish tasks more effectively if they are fatigued, and then see if they can apply the logic and tips to people driving. Have them share their research and ideas, making sure the following tips are included in the discussions:
- Drivers can stay aware of when they’re too tired to drive and avoid getting behind the wheel when they are drowsy.
- Passengers can stay alert to the signs of drowsy driving and speak up if it appears that their driver may be drowsy.
- Pull over safely and alert the police if you see a driver on the road showing signs of drowsy driving.
- Be aware of medications that may cause drowsiness.
- Know that drowsiness peaks from 12 a.m.–6 a.m. and in late afternoon.
- Drive with another person.
- On long drives, change drivers or take breaks (if alone) every two hours or 100 miles.
- Nap for 20 minutes somewhere safe.
10. Tell students that passengers need to be ready to not get into a car with a friend who is driving and may be drowsy. Have them work in teams to brainstorm what they could do instead. If time allows, have them role-play making a choice to walk away from a situation when a friend driving may be drowsy. Some options are:
- Call a parent, the parent of a friend, or an older sibling to ask for a ride.
- Walk to a friend’s house until you can get a safe ride.
- When it’s safe to do so, take the keys from the driver.
Since students are often passengers when their parents are driving, they may want to consider sharing what they’ve learned with their parents and talking with them about actions their family can take if a driver is drowsy.
11. Encourage students to use what they learned to develop a PSA concept for the 2019 Drive2Life Contest. You can enter for an opportunity to win teacher and student prizes. To prepare, have them do additional research as they think about what messages would resonate most with drivers. Share the following resources:
Also view the Promote Safe Driving: A Creative PSA Project lesson to help your students create PSAs.
Invite students to keep a sleep log for one week to develop (1) an awareness of how long they sleep (versus guessing) and (2) awareness about the impact that lack of sleep has on their wakeful hours and activities. Ask them to take notes to identify what stopped them from getting enough sleep. At the end of the tracking period, have them write a plan for how to get enough sleep.