Drowsy Driving: Don’t Be a Victim

drowsy drivingWhen you are in the middle of your commute, driving the car, and suddenly realize that you cannot recall how you drove the last few miles, in addition to catching yourself rubbing your eyes and yawning every other minute, or, even worse, drifting out of your lane or off the road, then it is time to stop and take a nap!

Sleep-deprived driving is well-known by the name drowsy driving or fatigued driving. It is a dangerous and unfortunately widespread behind-the-wheel activity, or it might be better to say inactivity.

According to recent studies 1 in 24 people admit to nodding off while driving. And the riskiest category of drivers are young people ages 18-29 years old, whose average daily sleep does not exceed 6 hours.

Numerous studies have found that sleep deprivation can affect driving as much as (and sometimes more than) alcohol. Researchers have found that driving after being awake for 18 hours has the same effect on the human body as a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) 0.08%.

Needles to say, fatigued driving is often a factor in high-speed collisions. In fact the NHTSA says that the number of sleep-deprived collisions a year is about 100,000.

The trickiest thing with sleep is you cannot distinguish the moment you fall asleep. But you can check yourself to see whether you are ready for the drive.

It’s better to stay away from the steering wheel if you are/have been:

– Sleep-deprived (you had less than 6 hours of daily sleep)
– Suffering from sleep loss/insomnia
– Driving long distances without proper rest breaks
– Driving through the night, mid-afternoon or when you would normally be asleep
– Taking sedating medications (antidepressants, cold medicine, antihistamines)
– Working more than 60 hours a week
– Drinking even small amounts of alcohol
– Driving alone on a dark or monotonous road

Unfortunately there is no remedy to sleepiness besides having a nap. But there are a couple of things you can do before hitting the road.

– Get plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) the night before a long trip
– Avoid traveling at times you would normally be sleeping
– Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
– Avoid heavy foods
– Travel with a companion and take turns driving
– Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
– Pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap if you think you’ll fall asleep

Don’t be overconfident in your driving abilities, plan your trips ahead and stay alert on the road.

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