Drowsy driving is a serious threat to public safety on roads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that as many as 1 in 25 drivers doze off behind the wheel, and in 2013, the National Highway Traffic Administration attributed drowsy driving as the primary cause for at least 72,000 crashes. Driving responsibly requires more than just installing a car seat for young passengers; it also necessitates that you also practice good judgment about your ability to drive. To be a great driver, you must be able to recognize when you're experiencing sleepiness or fatigue, take action to stay alert, know your personal risk factors, and plan ahead for situations that may contribute to drowsiness. Though young men fall asleep at the wheel more often than any other demographic, sleepiness can strike any driver at any time, making drowsy driving an important phenomenon to guard against every time that you get behind the wheel.
Certain physical and psychological symptoms can point toward sleepiness while navigating roads. The most obvious signs that you might be becoming drowsy can include frequent yawning, heavy eyelids, and purposeful blinking to stay alert. Your mind may signal a desire to sleep by making it harder for you to concentrate on the road, producing wandering thoughts, and forgetting the last few minutes or miles of your drive. You may also feel like your moods have been affected, as impatience or irritability grows. Specific behaviors like missing exits, driving too close to other vehicles, and drifting off onto the rumble strip of the road can indicate that you need to take a break.
One of the best preventative actions you can take to guard against drowsy driving is to get plenty of sleep the night before your trip. Every 100 miles or two hours, take a break at a rest stop and stretch your legs, take a nap, or have something to drink. Bring a friend to ride with you to your destination; a driving buddy can keep you company, act as a secondary warning system, and play the role of relief driver. To stay alert, consider playing loud, upbeat music in your car. Seat position changes may also help you stay awake during your drive; keep your seat upright to reduce the chances that you'll be tempted to relax and fall asleep on the road.
Prevent Drowsiness During Trips
Part of being a good driver is minimizing the amount of risk that you pose on the road to yourself and to others. This can include ensuring that you remain alert and awake during every minute of your trip. Before taking your next trip, get enough interrupted hours of sleep, refrain from taking prescription and over-the-counter medications that can cause drowsiness, and avoid consuming alcohol. Instead of driving at night to avoid traffic, leave for your destination during the day to lessen the temptation to sleep.
Know Your Personal Risk Factors for Drowsy Driving
While any driver can succumb to drowsiness while on the road, certain types of people can be especially prone to falling asleep while behind the wheel. Statistics show that males under the age of 29 years old experience the most instances of drowsy driving. People with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy should seek treatment for these disorders before driving at any time of day. Similarly, those who have their sleep schedules regularly disrupted, such as individuals who work long shifts or irregular hours, can find themselves nodding off on the road and should attempt to normalize their sleeping patterns before attempting long drives. By recognizing risk factors and taking preventative steps to stop drowsiness, drivers can enjoy the road and appreciate wherever it may take them.
- Drowsy Driving Introduction
- Centers for Disease Control Guide to Drowsy Driving
- What Is Drowsy Driving? (PDF)
- You Snooze, You Lose: Drowsy Driving Prevention
- Facts About Drowsy Driving (PDF)
- Drowsy Driving Is an Increasing Hazard
- Distracted and Drowsy Driving
- Automobile Crashes and Drowsy Driving
- Why Do People Have Drowsy Driving Crashes? (PDF)
- Heed Warning Signs: Avoid Drowsy Driving
- Drowsy Driving Dangers and Tips
- Preventing Drowsy Driving
- Stop Drowsy Driving: Practice Good Sleep Habits
- How to Stay Awake Behind the Wheel
- Remain Alert While on the Road
- Don't Fall Asleep Behind the Wheel
- Among Teens, Sleep Deprivation Is an Epidemic
- Educating Youth About Sleep and Drowsy Driving (PDF)
- Stay Awake on the Road and Combat Sleepiness
- How to Avoid Drowsy Driving (PDF)
- Staying Alert and Fit to Drive (PDF)
- Naps and Drowsy Driving
- Stay Awake, Stay Alive (PDF)
- Driver Fatigue Tips
- Wake Up, Drive Alert, Arrive Alive (PDF)
- Caution: Some Over-the-Counter Medicines May Affect Your Driving
- Sleep Apnea and Driving