Perhaps it’s been a long day at work, you didn’t get a great night’s sleep, you’ve been under a lot of stress, or you’ve driven some distance to see your favorite band or sports team. You may drive long distances for your job or have an erratic shift schedule that disrupts your sleep. Your energy is low and all you want to do is tumble into bed, but it’s time to drive home. Driving all night and watching the sunrise is sometimes a romantic theme in the movies, but it’s no fun at all struggling to stay awake during a long, monotonous drive without even scenery to stimulate you.
The Dangers of Drowsy Driving
When drowsy, even a short trip of a few miles poses a risk to yourself and others on the road. The National Safety Council reports that a driver is three times more likely to be involved in a crash if they are fatigued. Driving while drowsy also has a similar effect to drunk driving – a driver who goes for more than 20 hours without sleep is as impaired as a driver at the legal limit.
Unfortunately, drowsy driving accidents are common. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 1 in 5 automobile accidents result from a fatigued driver. If your reaction time is slower, you can’t focus on the road, or in the worst case, fall asleep at the wheel, you can potentially injure yourself but also put your passengers and other drivers in harm’s way.
However, drowsy driving can be avoided, and here are some tips to keep you and others safe.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The best way to avoid the risk of drowsy driving is to have good sleeping habits. Make sure you get at least six hours of sleep the night before you have to drive.
Plan your trip in advance to avoid long stretches of driving. Choose your schedule and route to incorporate rest breaks or even spend an extra night on the way to your destination. Avoid driving all night to save money on a night’s hotel bill, or to squeeze in an additional day of vacation. If you’re going to an event such as a wedding or a football game out of town, factor staying overnight into your budget if possible. Eating a big meal, lots of socializing, dancing and drinking alcohol will set you up for feeling fatigued when the event comes to a close.
Get Help From Your Passengers
If you have passengers, establish agreements with them to help keep all of you safe. Share the driving if possible, designating sober drivers and deciding ahead of time who will take the first shift. Whoever sits in the front seat agrees to stay awake with you and hold a conversation. If you’re worried about how to keep chatting for hours, do some verbal word puzzles or trivia games, or some car karaoke with your favorite tunes.
Don’t take a chance on your car radio to keep you entertained – there’s nothing worse than a late-night drive in a remote area with nothing but static on the dial. Make sure you have your favorite upbeat music or highly captivating podcast downloaded on your phone.
Make sure it is not too warm in the car. Open a window and let fresh air inside or crank up the air conditioning. A cold environment will help keep you awake, while a warm temperature will contribute to your drowsiness.
Break it Up
Regular breaks are a must. Pull over into a safe, well-lit area like a highway rest stop, shopping center or gas station. Get out, stretch and walk around, and do some calisthenics to get your blood flowing. A good rule of thumb is a 10-minute break for every 100 miles of driving.
Take a Nap
There’s nothing wrong with breaking up your trip with a few hours’ sleep. Make sure you are in a safe location. Preferably exit the highway and stop in the parking lot of a 24-hour superstore, a truck stop or a designated rest area. The State of Nevada Department of Transportation operates rest areas throughout the state.
Caffeine is a driver’s friend – in small to moderate doses (between 40 and 300 milligrams), caffeine increases alertness, vigilance, attention, and reaction time. For the best caffeine boost, sip on a large coffee or an energy drink. If those drinks don’t appeal, caffeinated sodas and tablets containing caffeine (just stick to the recommended dose) can help.
Read Medication Warnings
Check the label of any medication you are taking, heed the “may cause drowsiness” warning. Don’t get behind the wheel after taking these kinds of medications.
Get a Ride
If a taxi or rideshare is an option (and won’t break the bank) you can let someone else do the driving and pick up your car after you’ve rested.
What are Some Signs You Are Too Drowsy to Drive?
Drowsiness can also sneak up on you. Even if you think you are well-rested, ask yourself these questions:
Are you yawning frequently and having difficulty keeping your eyes open?
Do you find yourself “nodding off” or your head dropping?
Have you lost awareness of your location and don’t remember driving the last few miles?
Did you miss your turn or exit because you’ve lost focus?
Are you having trouble maintaining your speed?
Have you caught yourself drifting into another lane or onto the shoulder?
If the answer is yes, take action. Pull off the road, take a break, and get a few hours’ sleep. Your safety, and the safety of others on the road, depends on it.
Was My Car Accident Caused by a Drowsy Driver?
In spite of taking precautions to avoid drowsy driving, you can’t control the actions of others. Considering how common drowsy driving is, it’s possible that it could have caused your accident.
If you are in an accident and you suspect the driver at fault was drowsy, it’s important to talk to an attorney about your options. Contact us and see Gina Corena & Associates can help.