Drowsy Driving: Don’t Be a Victim

Ever catch yourself coming out of a "brain fog" after driving for a little bit? Suddenly you yawn and rub your eyes... and realize you don't remember driving those last few miles. This is your cue to pull over; you're endangering your safety, as well as the safety of those around you. It's time to get some sleep.

Sleep Awareness Week 2019, running March 10 through March 16, highlights the importance of getting sufficient sleep in order to live healthy, safe, and productive lives. 

According to a 2018 NSF survey, only one in 10 Americans make sleep a top priority; for others, it comes in behind physical fitness, work, hobbies, and even socializing. 

The bottom line? Inadequate sleep makes you a drowsy driver.

Sleeplessness while behind the wheel can have fatal consequences. Numerous studies have found that sleep deprivation can affect driving as much as (and sometimes more than) alcohol. According to the National Safety Council, driving after being awake for 20 hours has the same effect on the human body as having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08%.

One AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study estimates that 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually, 109,000 of which result in an injury. Even worse: about 6,400 are fatal. 

As a driver, it's imperative to check yourself to determine whether you're ready to get behind the wheel. If you can answer yes to any of the following questions, it's time to rethink your ability to do so: 

  • Do you suffer from insomnia, or are you sleep deprived (getting less than 6 hours of daily sleep)?
  • Do you drive long distances (more than 2 hours at a time) without stopping for a rest break?
  • Are you driving during off-hours (overnight, or mid-afternoon)?
  • Are you taking sedating medications (antidepressants, cold medicine, antihistamines)?
  • Do you work more than 60 hours a week?
  • Do you drink even small amounts of alcohol?

Unfortunately, there is no remedy to sleepiness aside from actually getting some sleep. Use this 7-step checklist to train yourself into becoming a healthy, well-rested driver:

  1. Get plenty of sleep (at least 7 hours) the night before a long trip
  2. Avoid traveling during times you would normally be sleeping
  3. Schedule a break every 2 hours, or 100 miles
  4. Avoid heavy and rich foods
  5. For long distances, travel with a companion and take turns driving
  6. Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
  7. Pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap if you find yourself yawning

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

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