Everyone experiences fatigue at some point, whether because of working overtime at work, tending to a newborn or finding yourself wide awake at night with an inability to fall asleep. These things can lead us to become more accident-prone, particularly when it comes to driving.
Warning signs that you’re getting sleepy behind the wheel include:
- Drifting from your lane.
- Yawning or blinking frequently.
- An inability to remember the last few miles you drove.
- Hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road.
If you’re experiencing any of these while driving, pull off the road to rest or switch drivers.
In 2017, there were 91,000 police-reported crashes involving drowsy drivers nationwide.1 Those crashes injured about 50,000 people and killed nearly 800.1 Drowsy driving crashes occur most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m.1 Many times the driver was the only person in the vehicle. Drowsy driving related crashes also has high occurrences on highways and rural roads. Drowsiness can affect your driving by making you less attentive, can slow down your reaction time, and can affect your ability to make decisions.3
Adults aren’t the only people experiencing drowsy driving. Getting enough sleep typically falls at the bottom of a teenager’s priority list after school, work, extracurriculars, and social activities. Mixing teen driving inexperience with fatigue can lead to the behaviors mentioned above, or worse: falling asleep while driving.
Smart tips for staying alert and preventing drowsy driving:
- Remember to get adequate sleep on a regular basis. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Avoid drinking alcohol before driving.
- Before a long road trip, get a good night’s rest and plan a driving schedule with the other drivers in the vehicle.
- Sip a caffeinated coffee to help you stay alert.
- Avoid taking medications that can make you sleepy.
The National Sleep Foundation says drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. With the lack of public awareness, it can be hard to pass any legal sanctions relating to drowsy driving. Now that you’re aware of the dangers of drowsy driving, remember to share this information with your family, friends, and teen drivers.