Many people believe they can keep themselves awake if they need to. But the reality is, sleep is an incredibly powerful biological drive that can overtake even when you are actively resisting. It may seem harmless to get behind the wheel when you’re feeling sleepy, but a person who operates a vehicle when they are too tired may have slower reaction times, impaired thinking, or even fall asleep.
It’s essential to know how to handle your fatigue on the road to keep yourself and other drivers safe. Unfortunately, quick solutions like drinking caffeinated beverages or turning up the radio volume don’t do much to keep you awake when you’re fatigued.
How to prevent driving drowsy
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers can adhere to the following tips to avoid fatigue and drowsiness behind the wheel:
- Getting enough sleep each night is the best way to protect yourself from the risks of driving drowsy. Health experts recommend getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
- If you’re about to embark on a long road trip, be sure to get an adequate amount of sleep the night before – especially if you are traveling with passengers.
- Teenagers can be particularly vulnerable to drowsy driving because they are at a stage in life where their biological need for sleep increases. Be sure your teens are getting enough rest and encourage them to delay driving if they feel too tired.
- Always check your prescriptions or over-the-counter medications to see if drowsiness is a side effect. If drowsiness is a side effect, you should avoid operating machinery and find a safe ride.
- Whenever possible, try to avoid driving between midnight and 6 a.m. – the peak drowsiness hours. Stay vigilant to signs of fatigue in other drivers on the road if you are out during these hours.
If you need an immediate solution to fatigue, consuming coffee or energy drinks may help in the short-term. However, if you are severely sleep-deprived, you can still fall asleep behind the wheel after drinking caffeine.
Driving while drowsy puts everyone on the road at risk. Be sure you’re always getting the sleep you need each night and don’t put yourself or your passengers at risk if you feel exhausted.