Drowsy Driving: Do You Need to Pull Over and Rest?

Some Statistics:  

The statistics surrounding drowsy driving accidents are staggering. Lives are ended and families are devastated by the severe impact of driving while fatigued. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, about half of U.S. adult drivers admit to consistently getting behind the wheel while feeling drowsy.

About 20% admit to falling asleep behind the wheel at some point in the past year – with more than 40% admitting this has happened at least once in their driving careers.

An estimated 5,000 people died in 2015 in crashes involving drowsy driving, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association report. 

Have you ever driven while very tired? If yes, clearly, you are not alone.  But it can be hard to tell when it is time to pull over. When that first wave of exhaustion hits, drivers tend to think to themselves, “Oh, I’ll be fine. I can handle it.” But staying behind the wheel while fatigued puts you and others at risk.

Who will it hurt if you stop and take a quick nap or pull into a hotel for a good night’s sleep? The bigger question is: who will it hurt if you don’t?

How Do You Know If You’re Fatigued Behind the Wheel?                                                          

You might need to stop and rest if you notice the following while you’re driving:

  • A feeling of irritability or restlessness
  • You hit the rumble strip on the shoulder of the road (now you know why those are there)
  • You find yourself tailgating or drifting from your lane
  • You can’t keep your head up
  • You’re rubbing your eyes or yawning repeatedly
  • You are missing traffic signs, or you missed your exit
  • Having trouble remembering which lane you were just in or the last couple of miles
  • Feeling disconnected, wandering thoughts, or daydreaming
  • Heavy eyelids, frequent blinking, or difficulty focusing

If any of these signs or symptoms of drowsy driving occur, it’s time to pull over. If someone else is driving and you notice any of these symptoms in him, alert him immediately and insist that he either trade with you or pull over to rest.  Being a supportive passenger can make a very big difference.

Steps to Prevent Drowsy Driving:                                                                                                                 

While life can feel overwhelming, especially when it includes a lengthy commute or a long-distance drive, there are steps you can take before you get behind the wheel.  First, get enough sleep, in anticipation of your drive.  Adults need a minimum of seven hours of sleep and young adults need eight.  Second, try to stick to a sleep schedule.  Third, if you have symptoms of a sleep disorder, such as snoring or feeling endlessly sleepy, talk to your doctor about treatments.  Finally, avoid drinking alcohol or taking medications that increase drowsiness.  Make sure to check medicinal labels for warnings.

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