Drowsy Driving

Accord­ing to stud­ies, a full 60% of Amer­i­cans have dri­ven while sleepy, and 37% admit to hav­ing fallen asleep at the wheel. The National High­way Traf­fic Safety Admin­is­tra­tion esti­mates that dri­ver fatigue fig­ures in nearly 100,000 police-reported col­li­sions every year. Clearly, this is a very seri­ous issue, one that must be addressed at the indi­vid­ual level.

One of the eas­i­est ways to pre­vent drowsy dri­ving is to sim­ply make rest stops when needed. How will you know when a rest stop is needed? You should stop and take a break if you’re expe­ri­enc­ing any of the following:

  • Dif­fi­culty focus­ing, fre­quent blink­ing, heavy eyelids
  • Day­dream­ing; wan­der­ing or dis­con­nected thoughts
  • Trou­ble remem­ber­ing the last few miles driven
  • Miss­ing exits or traf­fic signs
  • Yawn­ing repeat­edly, rub­bing your eyes
  • Trou­ble keep­ing your head raised
  • Drift­ing from your lane, tail­gat­ing, hit­ting the should rum­ble strip
  • Feel­ing rest­less or irritable

While just about any­body can go out drowsy dri­ving if they aren’t vig­i­lant, there are cer­tain seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion that are espe­cially at risk. These include:

  • Young peo­ple – par­tic­u­larly males under the age of 26
  • Shift work­ers and peo­ple work­ing long hours
  • Com­mer­cial dri­ver – espe­cially long-haul drivers
  • Peo­ple with undi­ag­nosed or untreated dis­or­ders, like sleep apnea
  • Busi­ness trav­el­ers, who can have a ten­dency to get jet lagged

Dri­ving requires con­cen­tra­tion and you may not be able to give it the proper atten­tion if you’re dri­ving drowsy. Before you hit the road, con­sider the fol­low­ing to deter­mine whether you’re at risk:

  • Are you sleep deprived or fatigued?
  • Are you suf­fer­ing from sleep loss, poor qual­ity of sleep, or a sleep debt?
  • Are you dri­ving long dis­tances with­out proper rest breaks?
  • Are you dri­ving through the night, mid-afternoon, or any time when you’d nor­mally be sleeping?
  • Are you tak­ing sedat­ing medications?
  • Are you work­ing more than 60 hours a week?
  • Are you or have you been con­sum­ing alco­hol, even a lit­tle bit?
  • Are you dri­ving alone on a dark, bor­ing, or rural road?

Thank­fully, drowsy dri­ving is a very pre­ventable con­di­tion. So get plenty of rest, and if you feel your­self start to nod off while in the driver’s seat, pull over and take a break.