You’ve heard of drunk driving and buzzed driving, how about “drowsy driving”? As the case with alcohol, driving while you are sleepy or fatigued is not a good idea at all. Just like the effects of being drunk or buzzed, being drowsy behind the wheel severely slows your reaction time and impairs your judgement. This, in turn, greatly increases your odds of being in an accident.
Drowsy driving accidents mostly occur at night and usually involve just a single vehicle. The driver is inattentive to the road due to being drowsy, if not asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is estimated that loss of sleep (little to no sleep before heading out on the road), too many continuous hours of driving with no stop for rest, some prescription medications, certain medical conditions, and of course alcohol use, all can play a role in drowsy driving. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving causes up to 100,000 car accidents and more than $12 billion in losses each year.
Anybody on the road right now has the potential to become a drowsy driver. However, there are some demographics of people who are more likely to do it. These groups include young people between the ages of 16 to 29 years of age, people working overnite or irregular hours, and finally those suffering from sleep-related illnesses.
Image courtesy of Smartdrive
So how can you tell when it’s just not safe to drive? If you are on the road for a long trip, driving late at night, or just didn’t get the “Zzzz’s” you needed the day before, be aware of the following signs that you NEED to stay off the road and get rest.
- Heavy eyelids or difficulty focusing your vision
- Wandering or disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles
- Driving past your exit or missing traffic signs
- Frequent, deep yawning
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Difficulty keeping your head up
- Having trouble staying in your lane
Don’t ignore the drowsy driving warning signs. Listen to your body and pull to the side of the road, look for a rest stop, and sleep a little. If possible, try and drive with a second person in the car who’s “fresh” and let them drive awhile if you don’t want to stop.
The best prevention of drowsy driving is to get at least 7 hours of sleep before you hit the road and coinciding with drunk driving, avoid alcohol when behind the wheel. Plan to take frequent rest stops before heading out on long trips. Finally, it is again best to not be driving alone and have someone keep an eye on you if you start to drowse.
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