NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, November 9, 2015, 1:49 PM
An old man behind the wheel of a car for long hours late at night is a recipe for a dead pedestrian.
Experts weren’t surprised at all to hear a report that 73-year-old cabbie Salifu Abubkar had fatally struck a woman with his vehicle at the end of his illegal 16-hour shift early Sunday morning.
Sleep deprivation, poor sleep among seniors, the deteriorating reflexes of the aged, plus the time of day combined into a perfect storm, said a NYU neurologist.
“It’s more evident on a monotonous, repetitive task like driving, especially at night when there is not too much traffic,” says Dr. Alcibiabes Rodriguez. “It is sedentary, like sitting at a computer.”
Salifu Abubkar, 73, passed a field sobriety test after Sunday morning’s fatal accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths in 2013 — but other studies say the fatalities are as high as 6,000 a year.
Adults need an average of seven to eight hours of sleep per night — which doesn’t change as we age. Rather, older people tend to sleep lighter, with frequent interruptions, and are likely to get more tired as the day drags on.
“As we get older, our sleep … is not as deep as it used to be,” Rodriguez said, adding that lack of sleep reduces attention, concentration and reaction time.
Driving is monotonous, which cuts down on reaction times. But older people also sleep lighter than younger people, making their reflexes slower still.
“Reflex time in general goes down as we age,” said Rodriguez, who is also with the New York Sleep Institute. “With time the nerves, as everything else, degenerates. The skin gets wasted, the receptors in the hands get used. It all gets slower. Nerve fibers become fewer as we age.”
Ironically, the death of Luisa Rosario allegedly under Abubkar’s wheels happened during Drowsy Driving Prevention Week — an initiative of the National Sleep Foundation.