While hitting the open road for a road trip or as part of your job can be a liberating experience, after a while, even the most experienced drivers can start to become hypnotized as the miles tread on. The scenery whisking by, the lines of the road, even the soothing sounds of the radio can all act to lull one’s senses as one’s time behind the wheel adds up.
Because many of us are so familiar with our time behind the wheel we might take it for granted that we can still drive perfectly safely for hours on end, but the fact is, driving while tired, or DROWSY DRIVING as it is sometimes known, can pose a huge risk for our own safety as well as everyone else who shares the same road.
Here are some sobering statistics that were collected by the National Sleep Foundation:
- 60% of adults reported they had driven while very tired
- As many as 1/3 of all adult drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel
- Someone who drives who has been away for 18 hours will have the reflexes and reactions of someone who is mildly intoxicated with a blood-alcohol level of .05. (.08 blood alcohol level is considered drunk)
- A driver who has been away for a full 24 hours will drive similar to someone who is legally drunk with a blood-alcohol level of .10.
- While a drunk driver’s reaction may be slowed, they still may be able to swerve or brake to avoid a collision. I drowsy driver, however, may fall asleep while still going full speed and not have the ability to slow down or make any evasive maneuvers to avoid a crash.
In addition to these shocking statistics, those provided by the National Highway Safety Administration show equally disturbing results of drowsy driving. Every year, roughly 100,000 cases of accidents caused by drowsy driving are reported. These accidents result in approximately 70,000 injuries and more than 1500 deaths. A study from the AAA Foundation has also shown that the less sleep a driver has, the greater chance of the driver getting into an accident
The evidence speaks loudly, driving while drowsy is not safe and should be avoided at all costs. If you have to drive for long periods of time or find yourself driving late at night, there are several symptoms to watch for such as falling asleep at the wheel or extreme fatigue that reduces your reaction and ability to pay attention to the road ahead. There are several driver safety tips to help you stay alert behind the wheel and avoid becoming drowsy should you find yourself in this situation. A few of the top suggestions to help you stay awake include:
- Pull into a rest stop or rest area every few hours or so (especially if you are driving at night) and take a short rest to recharge if you feel yourself becoming extremely tired.
- Drink coffee or a beverage with caffeine in it to help you give you a quick energy boost.
- If you can, it is advised to drive long distances during the daytime and not at night.
If you do have a long road trip coming up, pay attention to both the negative consequences of drowsy driving above as well as the recommendations on how to avoid them. Stay safe and never drive drowsy!