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A Wake-Up Call for Drowsy Drivers: Know Your Risks Before It’s Too Late

Driving while drowsy risks serious—even fatal—traffic accidentsWe often hear about the dangers associated with drinking and distracted driving, but one frequent underreported cause of car accidents is remaining a nightmare. That cause: drowsy driving.

Waking Up to the Facts

Driving while drowsy is not just dangerous because you can fall asleep while operating your car; being sleepy is actually extremely similar to driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sleepiness slows your reaction time, reduces your ability to pay attention to the road, and causes you to take longer to process information. As a result, the following alarming stats are linked to drowsy driving.

  • Over 100,000 motor vehicle accidents a year are caused by drowsy driving.
  • Being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours; .08 is considered legally drunk.
  • Crashes predominantly occur after midnight, with drowsiness peaking from late evening until dawn.
  • Crashes where the driver falls asleep are likely to be serious, primarily because of high speeds and delayed reaction times.
  • Multi-million dollar settlements have been awarded to families of crash victims as a result of lawsuits filed against individuals as well as businesses whose employees were involved in drowsy driving crashes.
  • Drivers tend to not take action to avoid crashing due to decreased cognitive function.

Unfortunately, many drivers get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t—and this doesn’t just occur at night. Sleepiness can occur as a result of overworking, boredom, or even comfort. This is why it is important to not only know the risks of drowsy driving, but also know how to combat the fatigue.

Ditching the Distractions and Embracing the Effective to Prevent Fatigue

Unfortunately, every day drivers are endangering their lives and the lives of others by attempting to fight their sleepiness behind the wheel. Sleepiness is a warning sign that your brain needs to recharge. Knocking back caffeine and blaring loud music is the opposite of recharging. Although you may get a jolt of energy, your brain still needs to rest, otherwise your body will be functioning on quick-fixes while your reflexes, attention span, and cognitive functions shutdown. However, many drivers are guilty of using ineffective tactics to try and stay awake behind the wheel.

Ineffective Techniques

  • Drinking a caffeinated beverage. Although this can be useful as a short-term fix, you can’t rely on caffeine for long periods of time.
  • Opening the sun roof or window. Many inaccurately believe that a change in temperature will keep them awake. Although it may give you a burst of adrenaline, when that adrenaline subsides the crash will be even worse than it was before. Furthermore, freezing temperatures or blistering heat can be dangerous distractions themselves.
  • Listening and singing to loud music. Although loud music may distract you from how tired you are, it can also distract you from driving.
  • Eating. Eating is definitely a bad idea when you’re tired as it causes the blood to drain from your head, increasing the effects of drowsiness. Ever notice why you always feel like a nap after lunch? This is why.

Effective Techniques

If you're driving and realize you're starting to have to fight to stay awake, don't try to work through it with short-term or ineffective techniques. Solve the problem by doing these instead:

  • Take a nap. When you're alone, or your passengers cannot drive, pull over somewhere safe and take a brief nap of about 15 to 20 minutes. The nap isn't going to make you wide awake, but it should give you enough steam to keep going until you get home or somewhere else where you can sleep for a longer period of time. Nothing takes the place of napping to combat drowsy driving.
  • Take turns. If someone else is in the car and she is fully capable of driving, ask her if she would mind taking over for you.
  • Walk around. Pull over in a safe place and take a few laps around your car. The increased circulation and adrenaline will help wake you up a bit.

Now that motorists’ attention have been educated about drunk and drugged driving, we need to raise public awareness of the nightmare of drowsy driving. Do you have a friend or loved one who frequently drives long distances? Like and share this article on Facebook to give your friends and relatives the resources they need to avoid a drowsy driving accident.


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