Be Aware and Don't Risk Driving Drowsy

By David Bradshaw, M.D.

Drowsy driving is an all-too-common occurrence these days. Our lifestyles have us rushing around, going from one thing to the next with very little time to rest. There is no time to waste; no time to sleep. We often make time for projects and activities and sell ourselves short on sleep. When attitudes like this become the standard, healthy habits such as sleep are often eliminated or cut short.

Are You Too Tired to Drive?
Quality sleep is incredibly vital and crucial to our overall health. It is also necessary for us to effectively and safely perform our daily tasks and routines such as driving or operating machinery.

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of Americans admitted to drowsy driving. Even worse, 37 percent admitted to actually falling asleep while driving this past year.

How do you know when you’re too tired to drive? Here is a list of warning signs.

  • Having difficulty focusing, frequently blinking, or having heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming or wandering thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven, missing exits or traffic signals
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip

Keep in mind if you are awake for 18 or more hours driving performance is impaired and after 24 hours of wakefulness this impairment exceeds that of persons who are legally drunk. If you feel any symptoms of drowsy driving, don’t risk it, take precautionary measures to arrive safely.

To keep yourself alert at the wheel, consider following these preventative drowsy driving tips.

  • Get enough sleep - Adults and teens generally need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Schedule breaks - A good rule of thumb is to take a break about every 100 miles, or every two hours.
  • Try not to travel alone - Have a friend, companion, or colleague along for long distance trips.

If you are on the road and find you are feeling drowsy, the following are some good options to consider:

  • Take a nap - Stop driving and find a safe place to stop for a break or nap. 15-20 minutes is best. If you need to nap longer, it may be best to call it a night and get a full night’s rest.
  • Drink a caffeinated beverage - A caffeine drink combined with a short nap can offer short-term benefits. Remember, it takes about 30 minutes for the caffeine to take effect and kick in to the blood stream.

Ultimately, driving drowsy is a serious issue that shouldn’t be ignored. Plan ahead and don’t underestimate the reality that the lack of sleep can get the best of you, especially on the road. Get a good night’s rest and drive safely.