Have you ever driven while tired or fallen asleep while driving? Surprisingly, many people would answer “yes” to this statement. This is a scary reality that poses a threat to many motorists and their passengers everyday.
The National Sleep Foundation indicates that tiredness impairs driving ability and judgment, may cause drivers to be more aggressive, and causes other issues that affect driving performance. NHTSA reports that more than 83,000 accidents have been caused by people driving while tired. This number, however, may be underestimating the extent to which fatigue actually contributes to traffic accidents since no test exists to measure the sleepiness of a driver.
The most important thing that drivers can do to prevent crashes and save lives is to be aware of things that put you at risk for fatigued driving and know the warning signs.
The National Sleep Foundation has listed several warning signs of drowsy driving:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
The NCSDR and NHTSA’s “Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes” indicated several risk factors:
- Sleep Loss
- Driving Patterns
- The Use of Sedating Medications
- Untreated Sleep Disorders: Sleep Apnea Syndrome and Narcolepsy
- Consumption of Alcohol Interacts With Sleepiness To Increase Drowsiness and Impairment
- Interactions Among Factors Increase Overall Risk
In addition to these risk factors, the NCSDR and the NHTSA mentions that people aged 16-19 and more males than females are likely to drive drowsy.
So, what would you do if you started feeling tired behind the wheel?
You can do many things to prevent accidents and stay safe if you start to feel tired while driving. AAA offers many suggestions to those who feel tired while driving. Some of these suggestions were to take a break, drink coffee or another caffeinated beverage, and travel with a passenger with you.
Being aware of these warning signs and if you are at risk, along with what to do when you become tired, can prevent accidents and save lives.