Being tired while driving is a recipe for disaster. Your reaction times are slower, your judgement is impaired, and you can become moody and aggressive. The NHTSA estimates that drowsiness contributes to more than 100,000 collisions each year resulting in 1,500 deaths and over 40,000 injuries.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has created National Sleep Awareness Week, March 10 to 16, 2019. Sixty percent of adults in the U.S. have driven while drowsy and around one-third of people have fallen asleep at the wheel. Drowsy driving is dangerous because sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as drinking alcohol.
According to the NSF, signs of drowsiness while driving may include:
- Impaired reaction time and judgment
- Decreased performance, vigilance and motivation
- Trouble focusing, keeping your eyes open or your head up
- Daydreaming and wandering thoughts
- Yawning or rubbing your eyes repeatedly
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating and missing signs or exits
- Feeling restless, irritable or aggressive
Have you ever been driving for an extended period and not able to remember the last few miles? Have you ever had difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open? If you answered yes to either question, you have driven while fatigued.
Here are a few tips to avoid driving while fatigued and prevent an accident:
- Take a nap for 15 to 20 minutes
- Stop at travel plazas
- Make sure you get enough sleep the night before a big trip
- Take a passenger or share the drive
- Commercial drivers are not permitted to exceed their hours and are required to take their rest
Sometimes drivers will open a window or turn up the radio to help them stay awake. These methods do not work. Playing loud music can cause your brain to tune out background noise. You can “zone out” and become even more fatigued. Turning on the air conditioner or opening a window has little impact on your body’s need to rest.
Avoid driving while fatigued, it could save your life and the lives of others.