According to a 2015 AAA driving survey, the average driver spends about 290 hours a year driving, or seven 40-hour workweeks. What’s more astonishing is we’re not always as alert as we should be when driving. Drowsy driving is a major problem in the U.S.
The National Highway Safety Administration estimates an average of 886 annual fatalities, 37,000 injuries, and 45,000 property damage claims result from drowsy driving. A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation reports sixty percent of drivers drove while sleepy within the past year, and more than a third fell asleep at the wheel. Of those, 4% resulted in a near-accident or accident. Consequently, spotting the signs of drowsiness is extremely important for road safety.
Telltale Signs of Drowsiness
Many drivers do not get the recommended 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night, and lack of sleep causes many problems for drivers. According to the CDC, they are less able to pay attention to the road, it slows reaction time, and it impairs a driver’s ability to make good decisions.
Here are some telltale signs you’re too comfortable behind the wheel and it’s time to act:
- Cannot focus on driving or remember driving the last few miles
- Frequent blinking, heavy eyelids, rubbing eyes, bobbing head
- Constantly yawning
- Drifting across the road or following too close
- Missing traffic signs or exits
- Feeling grouchy or restless
The best way to ensure you don’t falter while driving is to get sufficient rest. Driving requires you to be fully alert at all times. Even when you get 8 hours of sleep, you can still be tired after a long drive. Here is what experts suggest you do to revitalize yourself and stay safe.
Nap – A nap before you leave can give you a needed boost and help you remain alert. Pull over and take a 20 minute nap when you feel fatigued while traveling to recharge your batteries, too.
Eat Healthy Food – Fast foods and most snacks are high in sugar, salt, and fat. Sugar gives you a short energy boost, and then your blood sugar plummets leaving you feeling very tired. These foods won’t sustain you on a long journey, and they’re not good for your health. Take along a few pieces of fresh fruit, julienned carrots, celery, and hummus, or a few pieces of low-sodium turkey jerky.
Drink Water – Yes, caffeine is a stimulant and it can keep you awake, however its effects wear off and you’ll need to stop for a bathroom more often since it is a diuretic. Dehydration is a major cause of fatigue, so drink plenty of water.
Stop & Stretch – Pull over at a rest stop when you start to feel tired. Get out of your vehicle, walk around, and stretch. Breathe in some fresh air and move. It increases circulation, important for proper brain function, and it gives you a moment to do a vehicle safety check.
Moderate Temperature – Don’t keep the cabin too warm. It can make you too comfortable and you’ll tire more easily. Try to maintain body temperature, but nothing more.
Travel With A Companion – Having another person awake in the passenger seat reduces the likelihood you’ll fall asleep. They can spot problems and even take a turn driving if you need to sleep.
Listen To Music / Audio Book – Keeping your mind active makes it less likely you’ll drift off. Put on some lively music or listen to an engaging self-help book or scary mystery.
Stop – If you know you’re tired and you’re struggling to stay awake, stop driving. Get some sleep at a rest stop or spend the night in a quiet hotel, but don’t jeopardize your safety or the safety of others.
Before you embark on your trip, ensure you have proper insurance coverage. State minimums do not provide the protection you need, so talk to your local independent agent. They can tailor your policy to your needs and budget.