Driving while you’re feeling tired may seem innocuous, but in reality, it’s about as dangerous as driving drunk. Drowsy drivers have many of the same impairments drunk drivers do, including:
- Inability to focus or pay attention to the road
- Slower reaction time in case you need to brake or steer suddenly
- Impaired ability to make good decisions
If you’re especially tired, you may fall asleep at the wheel and lose control of your vehicle.
Are you at risk of drowsy driving? Although drowsy driving can affect anyone, there are certain types of drivers who are more likely to drive drowsy than others, including:
- Commercial drivers, such as those who operate tractor trailers, buses, and tow trucks
- Shift workers on night shifts or long shifts
- Drivers who take medications that may cause drowsiness
- Drivers with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or insomnia
- Drivers who don’t get enough sleep
You may be quick to discount the danger of drowsy driving if you don’t fall into one of these high risk driver types, but you could be part of this group without realizing it. About one third of U.S. adults report that they get less than seven hours of sleep each night. More than two thirds of U.S. high school students get less than eight hours of sleep each night, though they need eight to ten. Many drivers, both adults and teens, are driving when they are too tired to do so safely.
Drowsy Driving Prevention
Drowsy driving is dangerous and causes thousands of accidents annually. You can prevent drowsy driving by taking precautions to stay awake and alert when you’re driving.
- Get the recommended amount of sleep every night. Each night, adults should get seven to seven and a half hours of sleep, and teens should get eight to 10 hours of sleep. Make sure you’re leaving room in your schedule to get enough sleep at night, as you should never be too busy for sleep. Create a healthy sleep environment so you can get good quality sleep each night.
- Get treatment for sleep disorders. If you suffer from sleep disturbances on a regular basis, you may have a sleep disorder. These can include insomnia and sleep apnea, and they can interfere with your ability to get enough sleep each night. Talk to your doctor about your difficulties with sleep and seek treatment to improve your sleep quality.
- Pull over if you’re too tired to drive. Instead of pushing through and hoping to make it to your destination safely, stop driving and take action so you can drive refreshed and alert. Pull over to take a 20 minute nap, or get out to stretch and drink coffee before you get back on the road. Or, pull over and get a full night’s sleep and start driving again the next day. Turning on loud music or opening the windows is not effective.
- Take care with medications. Be aware of the danger of drowsiness any time you take a medication that may cause you to feel drowsy. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what time you should take the medicine, so you’re not taking it when you plan to drive.
This blog post has been brought you by Sara Westgreen, a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. The Cardone Law Firm is a proud supporter of the sleep science hub Tuck.com and is proud to partner with researchers like Sara Westgreen to bring you valuable information to ensure your safety on the road. A little bit about Sara – she sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.