It’s been a long day. You are driving home from an outing, commuting to work after endless meetings or an overtime shift, or driving the last leg of long road trip. Sleep tugs at the corners of your eyes and you yawn, again and again. You are so tired that you are struggling to keep your eyes on the road. And that is super dangerous.
It’s a more common problem than you think. AAA has stated that the number of crashes involving sleepiness is almost eight times higher than federal estimates have shown. 60 percent of adults admitted to driving drowsy and 37 percent have actually fallen asleep at the wheel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily. Drowsy driving is a serious threat to your safety, especially here in Utah where the weather conditions can be treacherous.
It is truly dangerous to drive when you are too tired. It impairs your driving ability in that you’re going to have a delayed reaction, and that is critical – to be able to respond on point if you have an unexpected event. If someone is too tired at the wheel, their decision making is also impaired. That makes it very likely that they could hit you and cause an accident. If that happens and you are injured, you will need legal counsel from Siegfried & Jensen.
The National Sleep Foundation states that sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as when you drink too much alcohol. “Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05,” they report. “If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive — say, after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep — it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10.”
Signs of Sleepiness
Are you driving while too tired? Here are ways to realize you are too drowsy and it would be a good time to pull off to the side of the road for 40 winks.
Do you keep yawning? Continuously yawning or the inability to keep your eyes open is your body flashing warning bells at you-you are too tired and you need to sleep!
Are you forgetting something important? Memory lapses can signal that you are not paying attention to the road, especially if you don’t remember the last couple of exits or last couple of miles.
Are you swerving? If you’re starting to move back and forth in your lane, drifting from lane to lane or going over the lines that mark the side of the road, it’s time to pull over.
Are you driving aggressively? Unsafe driving maneuvers like tailgating or braking are a sign you may be dozing off, especially if any of your car’s active safety features (lane keep assist, lane departure warning, etc.) are being used more than the usual.
How To Get Home Safe
Of course, you have tried to power through that last half hour of a long drive or be seriously jonesing for coffee on an early morning commute. However, you should always recognize when you’re too tired to drive and don’t get behind the wheel.
No choice but to drive? There are some strategies you can use to help keep yourself awake.
Call someone. Talking to someone will get your mind engaged and focused as well as making the ride go faster because your interest is up. Use your Bluetooth and call a friend, or if there are people in the backseat, start up a conversation.
Use the built-in safety systems in your car. Many cars offer features designed to keep you safe on the road with a little extra oomph when you are driving. These include lane departure warning and lane keep assist to help you stay in the lane as well as forward collision alert to avoid a t-bone collision accident or rear-ending the car in front of you.
Train your brain. Playing mental games will get your brain engaged and will help you stay awake. Eye-Spy, 20 questions or the billboard alphabet game will work your mind and help you focus on the road ahead.
You may need a cat nap. Don’t underestimate the help that a quick nap can bring if you feel yourself lagging, especially if you are on a longer drive or road trip. Get 40 winks at a rest stop by taking a quick nap – no more than 30 minutes long – to refresh you for the next leg of your journey.
Coffee or energy drinks are just quick fixes. Don’t rely on them to power you through your trip. There is no better way to tackle being tired than what else, getting the recommended amount of sleep. If you’re too tired, find the nearest hotel and get a good night’s rest.
Napping helps. The pre-drive nap is a good idea. Taking a short nap before a road trip can help make up for a short night’s sleep. As well there is the mid-drive nap. If you find yourself drowsy while driving, pull over to take a short nap of 20 minutes. Make sure you are in a safe location and remember you’ll be groggy for 15 minutes or so after waking up.
Drive with a partner. Use the Buddy System. It’s safest to drive with someone else during long trips. Pull over every two hours and switch drivers, while the other rests.
Don’t rush. There is no reason to make your drive harder than it already is. It’s better to arrive at your destination safe than worrying about being late.
Do not drink alcohol. Not only will it impair your judgment, but even very small amounts of alcohol will also enhance drowsiness.
Finally, don’t drive between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Because of your body’s biological rhythm, this is a time when sleepiness is most intense so try to avoid being on the road at that point.
If you are an accident with a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, Siegfried & Jensen can help. Call them at (801) 598-1218.