Tips to Help Prevent Driver Fatigue and Drowsy Driving Risks

As Dangerous As Driving Drunk

The highway is long. The scenery is boring. Suddenly, you begin yawning frequently, blinking often, crossing the center line and hitting the rumble strip.

Drowsy driving, a type of distracted driving, is shockingly common and the drowsy driving statistics are no joke. One study found 1 in 25 adults had fallen asleep while driving in the previous month. And, when drowsy driving accidents occur, they’re more likely to be deadly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found drowsy driving resulted in more fatalities and injuries than accidents involving non-drowsy drivers.

Keys to staying safe: knowing who is at risk, recognizing the warning signs and acting quickly to address driver fatigue.

See the scary stats behind drowsy driving.

Drivers at Risk

Some drivers are more prone to drowsy driving than others. High-risk groups include:

  • Commercial drivers
  • Night-shift workers
  • Those with untreated sleep disorders
  • Sedatives users
  • Drivers who get less than six hours of sleep per night

While these groups may be most at risk for falling asleep while driving, anyone who drives after being awake for an extended period of time may suffer drowsy driving symptoms.

Drowsy Driving Dangers

Researchers in Australia found drivers who were awake for 18 hours before getting behind the wheel drove like someone with .05 blood alcohol concentration. Drivers who were awake for 24 hours before getting behind the wheel drove like someone with .10 blood alcohol concentration. (A blood alcohol concentration of .08 is considered legally drunk.)

Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving

The good news: Drowsy driving is easy to recognize. Knowing the signs can help prevent deadly drowsy driving accidents. The telltale signs include:

  • Frequent blinking
  • Yawning
  • Missing exits
  • Not remembering the last few miles
  • Crossing the center line or hitting the rumble strip

When a driver experiences any of these symptoms, it’s time to act.

Driver Fatigue: Tips to Keep from Falling Asleep While Driving

Conventional wisdom on how to stay awake while driving advises rolling down a window, turning up the radio or turning up the air conditioning to help a driver stay awake. However, research shows the only safe way to overcome driver fatigue is to pull over and take a nap or switch drivers. If you frequently feel like falling asleep while driving, see your doctor to rule out a sleep disorder.

Increased Drowsy Driving Awareness

The issue of drowsy driving first gained prominence a decade ago. Little was known about the issue then. That’s changed. Some states are even posting road signs that advise drowsy drivers to pull over and rest, one more step in educating drivers to take the drowsy driving statistics seriously.

If you have travel on your horizon — a long road trip or even a relatively short commute — consider one more reason to turn in early: Getting a good night’s sleep is key to safe travel.