If you are tired or sleepy at the wheel, you might not be able to pay attention to road conditions, other drivers, and traffic signals. This can lead to serious injuries or even death. For commercial drivers such as truck drivers and delivery drivers, they often have to meet tight deadlines, but long drives can result in fatigue.
Learn about the consequences of drowsy driving and how to avoid it so you can remain safe on the road.
What is Drowsy Driving?
The combination of driving and fatigue makes drowsy driving very risky. A driver who has not slept enough is more likely to experience drowsy driving, but it can also be caused by untreated sleep disorders, alcohol or drug consumption, or shift work.
Sleep-deprived drivers, commercial drivers, and drivers taking medications with sleep-inducing side effects are the most at risk for drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is more likely to occur if drivers have untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, where breathing starts and stops randomly.
How Drowsy Driving Happens
Drowsy driving can result from multiple factors:
Sleep deprivation: Getting little sleep can result in sleepiness during the day, which can lead to micronaps or other risky behaviors. Many adults consistently fall short of this recommendation of seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Sleep disorders: Many sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, make sleep less restful and more disrupted. Sleep apnea affects 12% of the US population (OSA). According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), approximately 30% of commercial truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea.
Medications: Some sleep aids could leave you groggy the next morning such as prescription medications and dietary supplements. Drowsiness is also a common side effect of many medications.
Time of day: Drowsy driving accidents are more common between 4 and 6 am, and between 2 and 4pm, which is also a time when sleepiness is at its peak.
Hours of service rules:
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service regulations are intended to combat fatigue among truck drivers. Truckers are not allowed to drive for longer than 11 hours in a 24 hour period, with a few exceptions such as traffic congestion, accidents, or inclement weather.
Additionally, they may not work more than 60 hours a week in a seven-hour workweek or 70 hours in an eight-hour workweek. Despite the requirement for logbooks, many drivers falsify them to hide violations.
Is Driving While Drowsy Dangerous?
When you drive while drowsy, you increase your risk of causing a collision. Microsleep occurs when a person dozes for a few seconds. Dozing while driving may result in the vehicle running off the road or hitting another car. Collisions at high speeds cause more harm.
Driving while drowsy is dangerous even when a person does not fall asleep. The effects of sleep deprivation are comparable to those of drunkenness, with 24 hours of sleep deprivation roughly corresponding to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10%.
Driving while drowsy increases the risk of distractions and makes you less aware of your surroundings. Having a lower reaction time makes it more difficult to avoid road hazards. The lack of sleep can also cause impaired decision-making and, ultimately, hazardous driving.
Tips to Avoid Drowsy Driving
There are some tips you can use before a trip or to prepare for one, while others can be adopted as lifestyle habits to promote good sleeping habits.
- Experts recommend that people get seven to eight hours of sleep each night as a means of protecting themselves from the dangers of driving while drowsy.
- Make sure you read the label on your prescription and over-the-counter medications to see if they can cause drowsiness.
- Skipping meals can lead to fatigue and food cravings. Likewise, going to bed on an empty stomach or after a heavy meal can hinder sleep. Snacking before bed may aid in better sleep.
While You’re Driving
Keep an eye out for warning signs: Find a safe place to pull over and rest if you are feeling sleepy or experiencing symptoms of drowsy driving. Never push yourself too hard if you’re tired.
Nap when possible: The ideal nap time is 45 minutes. You should allow yourself at least 15 minutes to recover and drive again after waking from a nap.
Be wary of hacks to stay awake: Many people try to stay awake by fiddling with their windows for fresh air or blaring music, but this can take your attention away from the road. It’s best to take a break and let your body rest.
Stay Safe on the Road
To avoid drowsy driving, getting enough sleep and eating well are the most important factors. Working with your doctor can help you determine the best way to improve your sleep, including having you tested for underlying sleep disorders. Staying alert and safe while driving is always better than risking everyone’s safety on the highway. Need to schedule your DOT Physical? Give us a call at 217-356-6150.