Millions of Americans regularly commute to and from their jobs, and many work a fair distance from their homes. If you live in the suburbs and regularly commute into the city for your job, you might have to leave your home early in the morning and arrive home late in the evening to accommodate your work schedule. Some people also drive as a regular part of their jobs and spend hours each day traveling on the roads and highways.
Spending hours behind the wheel or driving early in the morning or late in the evening after a long day at work can make you tired. Many people get into routines when they drive their regular routes, and the monotony of their trips can result in drowsiness. Sleep deprivation is also a real problem that can result in falling asleep behind the wheel, and truck drivers might feel pressure to get their loads to their destinations on time and fail to take sufficient rest breaks as a result.
Prevalence of drowsy driving
Drowsy driving is a dangerous issue and is quite common. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 697 people were killed in accidents caused by drowsy driving in 2019 alone. The NHTSA also reports that an average of 91,000 police-reported crashes each year involve drowsy driving, resulting in an estimated 50,000 injuries.
While most people understand that drowsy driving is dangerous, many people think that driving while drowsy is unlikely to result in being caught by the police. According to a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 96% of people agree that drowsy driving is dangerous. However, just 29% thought that driving while drowsy makes it likely for drivers to be caught by the police, and 24% admit to driving while drowsy within the past 30 days.
If you routinely feel tired when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, it is important for you to consider your choices. Choosing to drive when you are tired places both you and others around you on the road in danger. If you engage in drowsy driving, you could drift off to sleep behind the wheel and cause a car accident in which someone is seriously injured or killed.
People who are injured in an accident you cause because of driving while drowsy can pursue monetary damages against you with the help of experienced car accident attorneys. Instead of risking causing a serious accident resulting in liability, you should instead avoid driving when you are tired. Here are some tips to help you avoid driving when you are tired so that you can protect yourself and others.
- Make sure you always get enough sleep.
Adults are recommended to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. However, many adults fail to get adequate sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an estimated 33% of Americans are sleep-deprived, and 50% report that they driven while drowsy at least once.
The effects of drowsy driving are similar to the effects of driving while drunk. The National Sleep Foundation reports that people who remain awake for 18 hours have similar reaction times and driving behaviors as those who have blood alcohol concentrations of 0.05%. For those who sleep 4 or fewer hours, their driving behaviors are similar to people with alcohol concentrations of 0.08%. People who get between six and seven hours of sleep at night have twice the risk of being involved in an accident. Those who get fewer than five hours of sleep at night have four times the risk of being involved in car accidents.
A simple solution to this problem is for you to make sure you get enough sleep every night. Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bed, and establish a regular bedtime that you follow each night. Make sure to give yourself enough time each night to get between seven and nine hours of sleep to avoid feeling drowsy the next day while you are driving.
- Pull off of the road if you feel tired.
If you feel sleepy when you are driving, pull off the road at a safe place to stop and take a break. It is easy to feel increasingly tired when you are driving a long distance. Make sure to take regular breaks to prevent yourself from growing tired. Even if you do not feel tired, it is a good idea to take a short break at least once every two hours. Get out of your car and walk around to stretch. You need to make sure that your body is well-rested and remains in a good condition to help you remain awake.
Commercial truck drivers are mandated to take rest breaks. Other motorists should follow their example and pull off of the road at regular intervals. Doing so can help to prevent people from falling asleep behind the wheel and causing serious accidents.
It is a good idea to take advantage of rest stops. When you see a rest stop while traveling, stop at it. Rest stops are designed to provide travelers a safe place to stop and rest so that they can avoid becoming too tired and have an opportunity to stretch their legs and reinvigorate themselves.
- Drink caffeinated beverages.
Drinking caffeinated beverages can make you more alert and help you to remain awake. However, it takes around 30 minutes for the caffeine to enter your bloodstream and have its full effect. This makes it a good idea to try to drink a cup of coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drink around 30 minutes before you leave your home or office. You can also continue drinking caffeinated beverages while you are traveling to help you stay awake. However, do not avoid stopping for rest breaks if you begin to feel tired. Caffeine can help you to stay awake, but it cannot take the place of adequate rest stops.
- Drive with the windows cracked.
Fresh air hitting your face as you drive can help you to stay awake. If it is cold outside, the feeling of cool air hitting your face can help to stimulate you while you drive. By contrast, driving in an enclosed cab with the heat on can cause you to begin to feel tired faster. When you have the heat turned on in your car, keeping the window cracked on the driver’s side can make enough of a difference to help to keep you awake.
- Share driving responsibilities with someone else.
Traveling with another person makes it much easier for you to avoid driving while drowsy. Having a conversation while you drive can help to alleviate boredom and feelings of tiredness. Whenever you do start to feel tired, you can switch with the other person in your vehicle so that you can rest. Swapping drivers at regular intervals is a good way to ensure that everyone who drives will not be too tired. A good time to switch drivers is when you pull off of the road for a rest break after two hours of driving.
- Be careful with your prescribed medications.
Some people believe that since their doctors have prescribed medications to them, that means that the medications are safe. Many drugs have side effects that include drowsiness or impairment. You should never drive while you are under the influence of a prescription medication that causes you to feel drowsy or that could slow your reaction times. Read the warning labels of all of the medications you take, and talk to your doctor if you have questions about whether you should drive while taking any of them. Your doctor can help you adjust the schedule of when you take your prescribed medications so that they will not interfere with when you have to drive.
Drowsy driving is dangerous, but many people regularly engage in it. If you feel tired, you should not be behind the wheel of your vehicle. By following the six tips outlined above, you can reduce your risk of falling asleep behind the wheel and causing an accident in which you or someone else could be injured.