While we are heading into the most wonderful time of the year, it can be a difficult time to be on the road. Darkness arrives earlier, weather can be unpredictable, and holiday celebrations can keep you on the road late at night and in unfamiliar territory, make driving problematic for even the most experienced road-warrior. While we can’t change the weather or the time, we can help you learn about the dangers of drowsy driving, and how to prevent it.
Studies show that drowsy driving can have effects on the driver similar to drunk driving. Getting behind the wheel after being awake for 18 hours is the sleep-deprivation equivalent of driving with a .05 blood alcohol level (.08 is considered legally drunk). Increase your time awake to a full 24 hours, and you’re operating on the equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol level.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers has fallen asleep at the wheel in the past 30 days. This statistic is particularly startling considering the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driver fatigue causes 100,000 police-reported crashes per year, resulting in 846 deaths in 2014 alone.
While Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is November 5-12, 2017, we feel that preventing Drowsy Driving is an important cause to promote year-round, so we have put together our tips on how to identify fatigue while driving, and five ways to prevent drowsy when you do catch yourself in a sleepy situation.
RECOGNIZE SIGNS OF FATIGUE
Since you’re sitting while driving, you may not realize how quickly you can become fatigued. However, driving requires a lot of focus and mental exercise, so drowsiness can creep up quicker than a stop sign. Watch for these are common signs of fatigue while driving:
- Restlessness — Squirming in your seat, stretching, eye rubbing, cracking the knuckles
- Experiencing short lapses of attention — As fatigue sets in, you pay less attention to the dashboard and rear/side view mirrors. Perhaps you don’t vividly recall the last few exits you drove by.
- Staring ahead, appearing to be in a trance — You’re less responsive at the wheel, daydream and have wandering thoughts, change speed erratically, weave back and forth, and even cross the centerline or drift off the road entirely. At this stage, you are a hazard to yourself as well as others.
HOW TO PREVENT DROWSY DRIVING
- Catch Some Zzz’s According to the National Sleep Foundation, “missing just one to two hours of sleep increases the chance of a crash.” Get a full 7-8 hours of sleep per night and make sure you’re well rested before driving for long distances. Avoid driving at night whenever possible (like leaving for a long trip after work, for example) and maximize your driving time in the morning and the daytime when your body is used to being awake.
- Travel with a Buddy One great benefit of traveling with someone else is being able to divide the driving time so each person has the chance to rest and recharge while heading to your destination. Your co-pilot can also help keep drowsiness at bay by engaging you in conversation and helping to spot any signs that you may need a break. Anytime you can bring someone along for the ride, do it. They could save your life.
- Watch for the Warning Signs of Drowsiness Squirming in your seat, rubbing your eyes, zoning out, and even dozing off are serious warning signs that you need to pull over and rest. According to AAA, fatigue impacts reaction time, judgment and vision, causing people who are very sleepy to behave in similar ways to those who are drunk.
- Stop Driving if Sleepiness Arrives The best thing to do if you become tired while driving is to safely stop. Pull off onto an exit or a rest stop to re-energize or take a rest. If you are traveling long distances, take a break every two hours, or every 100 miles traveled, even if you don’t feel tired. This preventative measure will help keep you engaged and alert, stopping the problem before it starts. You can also prevent drowsy driving before it even begins. If you know you will be at a friend or family member’s house late into the evening, pack a change of clothes just in case you need to stay the night. It’s better to be safe in their home than to fall asleep at the wheel.
- Re-energize During Pit Stops Simply stepping out of your car, moving your legs, and getting fresh air can give you a jolt to keep driving, especially if you’re going a long distance. Keep this list of yoga poses handy, as they are known for increasing energy. If you need a quick hit of sugar or caffeine to keep you going, keep in mind that it can actually take up to 30 minutes for the effects of caffeine to kick in. You may also want to pack or purchase one of these healthier, energy-boosting snacks. Of course, none of these tricks can beat the real thing. If you are very tired, pull over in a well-lit and populated area to take a 20-30 minute nap before continuing on.
Even drivers who are doing everything right can have something go wrong. In the event you’re involved in an auto accident, you’ll want the right coverage for you and your vehicle. Protect all the good in your life with Eastern To contact a member of our customer service team, email [email protected], or give us a call at 1-(800) 333-7234 (Option 2). You can also request a free quote on our website: www.bit.ly/EIGauto