The Most Important Way To Prevent Drowsy Driving
As we learned in the previous module, sleepiness, like alcohol, slows your reaction time, decreases awareness, and impairs your judgment. Driving drowsy is similar in many ways to driving drunk. The impact drowsy driving has on traffic safety should not be underestimated.
If you are sleep-deprived, you may have an episode of “microsleep,” which is a brief loss of consciousness that can last for a few seconds or longer. This means that at 55 miles per hour, you may travel over 100 yards down the road while asleep.
Below is a list of safe practices that will help ensure a serious crash doesn’t happen.
- Get adequate sleep every day. It’s the only true way to protect yourself against the risks of driving when you’re drowsy. Make it a priority to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Before the start of a long trip, get a good night’s sleep.
- Avoid drinking any alcohol before driving. Consumption of alcohol interacts with sleepiness to increase drowsiness and impairment.
- If you feel sleepy while driving, drink coffee and pull over for a short 20-minute “power nap” in a safe place. This has been shown to increase alertness in scientific studies, but only for short periods.
- Always check prescription and over-the-counter medication labels to see if drowsiness could result from their use.
- If you take medications that could cause drowsiness as a side effect, use public transportation when possible.
- Avoid driving during the peak sleepiness periods (midnight – 6 a.m. and late afternoon). If you must drive during the peak sleepiness periods, stay vigilant for signs of drowsiness, such as crossing over roadway lines or hitting a rumble strip. This is especially important if you’re driving alone.
- Pull over at a rest stop and take a nap if you begin to feel drowsy.
You can learn more about the effects of prescription and over-the-counter drugs by visiting NHTSA’s There’s More Than One Way to Be Under the Influence website.