Drowsy driving is a serious issue that can have life-threatening consequences. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for over 90,000 crashes and hundreds of fatalities annually in the United States alone.
Every driver should be aware of the risks of drowsy driving and take proactive measures to avoid falling into that trap. Here are some tips that can help you protect yourself and others on the road.
Get enough sleep before you have to drive
It sounds simple, but one out of three adults in the United States are chronically sleep-deprived.
Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Everyone’s sleep needs vary, so pay attention to your body and adjust your schedule accordingly. Lack of sleep accumulates over time, so consistently getting enough rest is essential for overall well-being and alertness on the road.
Avoid driving during your body’s natural sleep hours
Your body’s natural circadian rhythms influence your sleep patterns and alertness. Most people experience a dip in alertness in the early afternoon and during the wee hours of the morning. Pay attention to your body and try to avoid driving when you feel fatigue coming on.
Don’t forget to take breaks on long trips
During long drives, make sure to take regular breaks. Use the time to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and have a light snack or drink water to increase your alertness. Heavy, greasy food can make you feel sleepier, however, so don’t overdo it.
Avoid medications that cause drowsiness
As cold, flu and allergy season rolls around, many drivers resort to over-the-counter and prescription medications for their symptoms – but be cautious. Even OTC meds can cause drowsiness as a side effect. Read the labels carefully, and get some help driving or get a lift if you need it.
Respond to the warning signals your body is giving
If you catch yourself yawning, nodding off at red lights for a fraction of a second, drifting between lanes or missing exits, it’s time to pull over. It’s better to be late wherever you’re going than to end up in a wreck.
Despite your best efforts to be responsible, you may still end up in a wreck caused by a sleep-deprived driver. If that happens, learning more about your options for fair compensation can help you decide what to do next.