Drowsy drivers are the cause of as many as 6,000 fatal crashes each year in the United States. Fatigue and sleepiness while driving pose risks and dangers to all motor vehicle drivers on the road, and also can lead to tragedy.
Before hitting the road, one must make sure to eat right and get enough sleep. You, your passengers and other drivers depend on this. Doing so just may help prevent an accident.
A survey of nearly 150,000 adults in 19 states and the District of Columbia disclosed that 4 percent of the respondents had fallen asleep at least once while driving in the previous 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a wake-up call to all drivers.
What we also know is that drowsy driving has parallels with drunk driving. According to Washington-based National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation has similar effects on a person’s body as drinking alcohol.
The nonprofit noted that a person who is awake for 18 hours straight drives a vehicle as if he or she has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 percent. And if a person has remained awake for 24 hours and drives, it’s as if he or she has a BAC of 0.10 percent – considered to be legally drunk.
What fatigue can do to drivers
Fatigue and drowsiness while driving may result in a number of unsafe situations such as:
- Slower reaction times: What if a child suddenly darts into the street? Will you be alert enough to hit your brake in time?
- Poor concentration: This may lead to a driver following another vehicle too closely, potentially leading to a rear-end crash.
- Poor judgment and not being aware of your surroundings.
- Falling asleep at the wheel: We’ve heard about a number of fatal accidents where the driver dozed off, and his car crossed the center line, leading to a head-on crash with an oncoming vehicle.
Ways to overcome fatigue
It’s critical that drivers stay safe on the road. Here are some ways in which you can overcome driver fatigue:
- Get enough sleep: If you’re traveling on a long trip, this is a must. Experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Take regular breaks: It’s ideal to take a driving break every 90 minutes to two hours. This allows you to get out of the car, stretch your legs and eat some food.
- Switch drivers: If you have other passengers, share the driving and take turns.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and taking medication beforehand. Even just a little bit of alcohol may make a person drowsy.
- Avoid traveling at times when you are usually sleeping. It may be tempting to hit the road early in the morning or late at night when there’s not a lot of traffic, but if these are the times you’re usually in bed sleeping, you may find yourself a danger on the road.
- If you have to, pull over and take a nap.
Please stay alert when driving. Get enough rest before heading off on a road trip this vacation season. Your life and the lives of others just may depend on it.