Everyone has been there. You were up too late the night before and now you have to sit in a line of traffic to get to and from work. You may think you are not that tired, but suddenly you're opening your eyes and slamming on the brakes, almost hitting the car in front of you. The worst-case scenario being that you actually do fall asleep behind the wheel and obtain serious injuries from the crash.
Dangers of drowsy driving
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that driving when you are exhausted, having stayed awake for a full 24 hours, can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated with a .10 blood alcohol level. Drowsy drivers are prone to falling asleep while traveling at high speeds, unable to stop or swerve for oncoming obstructions.
The amount of time you are in your car may not matter to your drowsy state, as a short trip could have you falling asleep. Not getting enough sleep and driving drowsy can affect both your vision and judgement when behind the wheel.
Who is most at risk?
According to the CDC, these individuals are most likely to fall asleep at the wheel:
- Individuals who do not sleep enough overnight
- Commercial truck drivers
- Night shift works
- Individuals with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia
Tips to keep yourself awake while driving
If you have no choice but to drive when you are tired, there are a few precautions that you can take in order to keep yourself awake at the wheel.
- Nap: If you know that you need to be somewhere later and you have time for a power nap, get one in. Even a short nap before a drive can help you stay more alert while driving to your destination.
- Consume caffeine: Stopping for a cup of coffee or a can of an energy drink can save you from nodding off at the wheel.
- Listen to music: It can be difficult to fall asleep when you are singing to your favorite song. Play songs that you will want to sing to in order to stay awake while driving.
- Open the window: Being the "perfect temperature" while you are in your vehicle can lull you to sleep. Instead, try opening your window for a blast of wind and change in temperature.
Falling asleep at the wheel can have deadly consequences that no one wants. Instead, knowing what causes drowsy driving as well as how to combat it can help you stay safe on the road.