Drowsiness is a real and dangerous hazard that can occur while driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was estimated from a survey that 1 in 25 drivers (aged 18 years old or older) reported falling asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. It was also estimated that over 6,000 fatal crashes each ear may have involved a drowsy driver.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), drowsy-driving crashes occur most often in these scenarios:
- Between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the late afternoon. During these times of the day, people experience dips in their circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates sleep.
- A single driver without passengers runs off the road at high speeds without braking.
- Driving on rural roads and highways
Drowsy driving can potentially cause severe car accidents and injuries. Learn more about the steps to implement to prevent falling asleep behind the wheel.
Tips to Stop Being Drowsy on the Road
1. Get Enough Sleep Before Driving
Sleep is an essential part of staying healthy and alert, especially when it comes to driving. It can be difficult for many people to prioritize rest or ensure they get the recommended hours a night but being well-rested before getting behind the wheel is a must. Drowsiness on the road can lead to disastrous consequences, not just for those in your vehicle, but for other drivers too. Sticking to a sleep schedule and making extra time for rest if needed can help protect everyone on the road from fatigue-related risks and accidents.
2. Improve Your Sleep Schedule
Getting enough sleep before driving is only a short-term habit. For the long-term, adjusting your sleep schedule to the recommended 7-10 hours by the CDC can keep you feeling refreshed and more alert while driving.
Aspects that can improve your sleep schedule include:
- Having a consistent bedtime
- Avoid using cell phones, computers, tablets, and watching tv half an hour before bed
- Avoid caffeinated foods and drinks before bed
- Keep your room dark and quiet while sleeping
- Talk to your doctor if you notice reoccurring patterns of poor sleep
3. Check Medication Side Effects
Before taking medication(s) of any kind, it is important to take the time to check the label for side effects. Drowsiness is one side effect that can be caused by certain prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. It is best to avoid operating vehicles or attempting any other activities that require focus if drowsiness is a potential side effect, and when possible, use public transportation instead. Doing so will help ensure your safety and that of those around you.
4. Avoid Drinking Alcohol
Be sure to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. This can risk your safety and other drivers’ on the road. Even drinking a legal amount of alcohol may cause you to become drowsy while driving. Especially if you are already tired, alcohol at legal levels may increase your drowsiness.
5. Avoid Driving During Peak Drowsy Periods
Driving during peak sleepiness periods (midnight – 6 a.m. and late afternoon) can be especially dangerous, so it's best to avoid driving during those hours if you can help it. However, if you must drive during those times, be sure to stay extra alert for signs of drowsiness.
Signs of drowsiness may include:
- Yawning or inability to keep eyes open
- Nodding off and/or having trouble keeping your head up
- Missing road signs or turns
- Drifting into other lanes or shoulder of the road
- Driving too close to cars in front of you
- Little memory of driving the past few miles
Especially if you're driving alone, keep your eyes on the road and make sure to take breaks often to give yourself a rest. Taking these steps can help you stay safe while driving during the peak sleepiness periods.
What to Do If You Start to Get Sleepy While Driving
If you begin to get sleepy while driving, pull off to the side of the road and have a passenger who is not tired or under the influence of alcohol/medication that causes drowsiness to drive the vehicle.
If you are driving alone, pull into a rest stop or any safe, well-lit space to park without obstructing the road. According to the Sleep Foundation, a 20-minute nap should be enough to refresh you but take more time if necessary.
Try to refresh yourself with coffee or other caffeinated drinks as well to give yourself a temporary energy boost. While these drinks may keep you awake, they may not be enough to provide enough alertness while driving. Therefore, a nap is still recommended. It’s important to note that these measures are only a short-term solution to drowsy driving. Practicing healthy sleep patterns, being mindful of medications, alcohol, and drowsy hours can help keep you and others safe.
Reach Out to a Car Accident Lawyer
Despite taking the steps to ensure you can drive safely, sometimes other drivers may not do the same. If you have been injured in a car accident, reach out to our attorneys at Bridges, Jillisky, Weller & Gullifer, LLC. We’re passionate about those we serve and will give you the individualized legal services you need to seek you compensation for medical bills, car repairs, pain and suffering, and more.
Call today at (937) 403-9033 or contact us online for a free consultation.