Salerno & Leavitt
How Sleep Reduces the Risk of Accidents Caused by Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving is a significant and wide-spread issue among motorists around the world. In the United States, for instance, drowsy driving in 2013 led to 800 deaths and 44,000 injuries across the country. The numbers since then haven't improved much, even with the rise of new tools and apps to help people stay awake on the road.
In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to assume that you can get through exhaustion when you're behind the wheel by chugging energy drinks or drinking endless amounts of coffee. However, the truth is that the human body can only accomplish so much. Forcing yourself to stay behind the wheel when you're fatigued not only puts you at risk but it puts everyone around you in danger too.
Drowsy Driving Can Affect Anyone
Also known as driver fatigue, drowsy driving happens when you're too tired to operate a motor vehicle properly. When you can't entirely pay attention to the road because your eyes are constantly drooping, you're putting yourself, your passengers, and other motorists in danger. The most common causes of drowsy driving include:
- A work schedule that leads to an inconsistent waking and sleeping cycle
- Chronic insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleeping disorders
- Driving for long periods of time without any rest or relaxation in between sessions
- Medication that can cause feelings of sedation - such as allergy medicine
While drowsy driving is more likely to have an impact on people with sleeping disorders or those who are forced to stay awake for long periods of time for work, it can happen to anyone. Just one night of bad sleep can make you less efficient and focused when you're out on the open road.
Sleep is the Best Cure for Drowsy Driving
If you've dealt with drowsiness when driving before, you've probably had countless people share their tips with you on how to manage the experience. For instance, some people recommend driving with a friend, so you have someone in your vehicle to help keep you alert. Around 82% of drowsy driving incidents are caused by single-occupant vehicles, meaning that driving with passengers can significantly reduce your risk. Chewing gum and getting plenty of fresh air can help to keep your brain active and engaged too.
However, while there are some workarounds to reduce your chances of drowsy driving incidents, there is no cure to this problem other than sleeping. If you really want to make sure that you're safe when you're behind the wheel, the best thing you can do is get the right amount of sleep each night. Learn to recognize how much sleep you need daily. Additionally, focus on going to bed at the same time each evening and getting up at the same time each morning. Practicing good sleep habits will significantly reduce your risk of having an incident. It also makes sure that you're prepared to react more effectively to the various events that can happen when you're on the road.
Don't Drive if You're Sleep Deprived
As well as getting the right amount of sleep each night, it's also worth listening to your body more often when you are behind the wheel. Pay attention to how you feel before you get into your car and be aware of the moments when you start to sense that you are exhausted or tired. If you're already driving and you begin to feel tired, make the most of a rest stop and take a quick nap if you need to - don't just stock up on caffeine.
If you haven't started your journey yet and you know that you don't have the right level of alertness to respond correctly to the dangers on the road, then don't get into your car at all. If need be, put your trip off until you've had an extra dose of sleep or ask someone else to do your driving for you until you're safe to be behind the wheel again. Never underestimate the threat of drowsy driving.