While behaviors like driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and distracted driving are often discussed as serious dangers while behind the wheel, drowsy driving receives little attention. Driving tired is overlooked as a major threat to driving safety, though national statistics have shown that drowsy driving is actually one of the largest causes of serious and fatal accidents, playing a main role in one in six fatal accidents. Though much more prevalent among younger drivers, everyone is susceptible to the harmful effects of driving when your body is in desperate need for rest.
Driving tired impairs your ability to think clearly and make correct decisions on the road, much like alcohol does. This lack of concentration can also lull drivers into making more dangerous risks on the highway that have a much greater chance to cause a crash. Drowsiness can seriously inhibit your reaction times, making you far more susceptible to collisions with obstacles that you would have otherwise been able to avoid if fully rested. Your vision is also negatively affected, making it more difficult to identify oncoming dangers, especially at night.
Though some drivers acknowledge the danger of these potential threats, most overestimate their ability to overcome them. This can create even greater harm, as drivers attempt to fight through dangerous conditions at the expense of others on the road. If you too tired to drive, you should stay away from the road, and get the rest you need to be able to give your full concentration to the road ahead.
Some of the most common signs of drowsy driving include difficulty remembering the last several miles driven, missing freeway exits or traffic signs, difficulty keeping eyes open, repeated yawning and rubbing of the eyes, drifting in lanes, and disconnected and wandering thoughts, pulling your focus away from driving. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should look to end your journey as quickly as possible, finding a place to safely exit active lanes and get some much needed rest.
To prevent drowsy driving, be sure to get a full nights rest before taking a long journey. You should also look to avoid long journeys during normal sleeping hours, as your body will be eager to slowdown. In some situations it can be impossible to avoid trips at odd hours for long periods of time, in which case it becomes vitally important to avoid eating heavy foods prior to embarking, as well as take frequent breaks to prevent yourself from being lulled to sleep. If possible, travel with a companion who can keep you awake and alert, and can take over the driving responsibility when you are too tired to go on. Avoid medications with drowsy side effects as well.
By understanding the risks of drowsy driving, you can protect yourself from compromising situations where your safety is at risk. If we continue to view tired driving as nothing more than an irritation, we will continue to fall victim to it. By raising awareness and applying the correct preventative measures, we can improve the safety of our roads and cut into the number of accidents that litter our streets each year.