Driving while fatigued, just like driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, can lead to an auto accident. When a person is sleepy, their reaction time is slower, their awareness is less acute, judgment is impaired and in some cases the driver experiences increased aggression. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that fatigue has caused almost 100,000 accidents every year. Of those, 1,500 people are killed in these accidents and 71,000 are injured.
Ways to help prevent drowsy driving
Sometimes it's hard to get a good night's sleep before you have to drive. We simply have too much going on in our lives, like kids, work or homework. This doesn't mean you should put off sleep. It might seem harmless to only get a few hours of sleep per night, but the truth is, it's unhealthy and risky. This is especially true if you're going on a road trip or going to work in traffic. Here are some ways to help prevent you from falling asleep while driving:
- Stop driving if you feel sleepy. You should either find a safe place to pull over and rest or stop at the nearest hotel.
- Get lots of sleep the night before taking a long trip.
- Don’t plan on working all day then driving all night.
- Drive at times when you are normally awake.
- Avoid driving at “sleepy times” of the day. If you must drive between 11p.m. - 6 a.m., make sure to take a break and find a place to sleep.
- Avoid foods that are high in carbohydrates because they can make a you sleepy.
- Avoid medications that make you sleepy, such as cold and flu medications.
- When driving long trips, have a rested passenger sit in the front seat with you. A loud radio is no substitute for actual conversation.
- Take a break every two hours or so even if you feel you don’t need it. Get out of the car and take deep breaths and maybe some stretching exercises.
- Try to set a limit of 300 to 400 miles a day.
No matter how a person is impaired, an impaired driver can make mistakes that can cause severe injury or death to other people. Always be aware of how you feel and be responsible for your actions. Taking precautions to avoid a car accident by getting plenty of rest before you drive will help you stay safe.