Driving when you are sleepy is incredibly dangerous. It can impair your ability to drive as much as drinking and driving. Consumer Reports states if a driver has been awake for 24 hours, it is the same as driving with a BAC of .10, which is over the legal limit of .08.
Unfortunately, drowsy driving is much too common in the U.S. A recent by AAA survey found in the past month, nearly a third of American drivers got behind the wheel when they felt so tired they could hardly keep their eyes open.
Some drowsy driving likely occurs because people drive too soon after they have taken a sleep aid. Another issue is that many parts of the U.S. lack comprehensive public transit options.
Though more bus and train options would help, in the meantime, drivers can do a few things to avoid drowsy driving and prevent vehicle accidents caused by drowsy driving.
Get enough sleep
This seems obvious, and yet, many people do not get enough sleep on a nightly basis. The average adult needs about seven hours of sleep.
Talk to your doctor about sleep issues
You may be experiencing sleep issues that interfere with you getting enough rest. If you feel drowsy after a full night’s sleep, wake up repeatedly or if you snore, you may have a sleep disorder. You should talk to your doctor, and ask to get evaluated for a sleep disorder.
Your medications could also be causing drowsiness, or your medications might be interacting with each other to cause fatigue. If you are on several medications, you may want to ask your doctor to adjust your dose or switch prescriptions.
Bring someone along for long drives
If you have a long drive ahead of you, consider asking someone to come with you. They can help with the driving or can help keep you awake by talking to you.
Take driving breaks
Experts suggest most drivers need a break about every two hours. You can pull over and get a snack or something to drink.
Stop if you notice any of these behaviors
You are struggling to stay awake, if you notice any of these behaviors:
- Yawning often or trouble keeping your eyes open
- Difficulty staying in your lane
- Cannot remember the last few minutes of driving
- Missed your exit or a road sign
Take a short nap
If you are feeling drowsy, you could pull over and take a quick nap. Experts recommend just a 15 to 20-minute nap. Anything longer than that may leave you feeling groggy after you wake up.
Fuel up with caffeine
Caffeine will temporarily wake you up and make you more alert. A cup of coffee is usually the best way to go because a 12-ounce coffee has about 142 mg of caffeine. In comparison, a can of Diet Coke only contains about 46 mg of caffeine.
Getting adequate sleep is the best way to avoid drowsy driving. If you have a long drive ahead of you: consider bringing someone along, taking driving breaks, stopping for a nap and refueling with a cup of coffee.