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.