Many people who would never get behind the wheel after a few beers never think twice about driving after a sleepless night. Although there is a growing awareness of the risks of drowsy driving, many still underestimate the danger.
Most people need around eight hours of sleep each night in order to function well enough to drive safely. When the number of hours drops below six, the effect can become similar to that of legal intoxication.
Get enough sleep
Prevention is the best way to avoid the risk of drowsy driving. Individuals need to know their own sleep needs: Some people may need more than the standard eight hours to feel truly rested.
Watch for signs of drowsiness
Commonly, these include frequent yawning, brain fog, rubbing one’s eyes and difficulty focusing on the road. If someone begins experiencing these or other signs of sleepiness, it is a good idea to avoid getting behind the wheel. Those who are already on the road should pull over as soon as they can safely do so and take a nap or arrange for other transportation.
When drivers are setting out on a long trip, advance planning can help them avoid the risks of fatigue. By checking out their route before they leave, they can schedule regular stops. Optimally, a driver should take a break about every two hours. Having someone to share in the driving can also help.
Account for risk factors
Some factors can increase the risk of drowsiness. Some medications have side effects that may include drowsiness or other effects that can impair driving. Those who work night shifts also tend to be more affected by drowsiness, even when they get a sufficient amount of sleep.
Sleep disorders can prevent individuals from getting a good night’s rest no matter how many hours they sleep. People who regularly get enough sleep but still feel fatigued should talk to their doctor.