A majority of Americans say they do not get enough sleep during the week, leading to many drowsy drivers on the road. Sleep deprivation and fatigue can reduce the alertness of drivers and slow drivers’ reactions to sudden changes in traffic conditions causing potentially deadly traffic accidents.
Drowsy Driving Statistics
Adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep during a 24-hour period, and any less means you should probably not be behind the wheel of a vehicle, according to a recent report by NPR. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 25 adults admits to having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past 30 days.
Many Americans are not getting adequate sleep to be fully alert, safe drivers. Fatigued driving accounted for 846 traffic deaths in 2014, according to the National Highway Safety Transportation Agency (NHTSA). The National Sleep Foundation estimates that as many as 100,000 crashes each year are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel. The more hours you spend sitting behind the wheel, the more likely you are to become drowsy. It’s a particular problem on longer road trips.
Here are a few tips to prevent drowsy driving and avoid getting into an accident on long road trips:
Tip #1 – Leave Early
It’s best to start a road trip after getting a full night’s rest. Avoid starting a long drive when you are tired after having worked all day.
Research has been performed on circadian rhythms and how they affect alertness and travel. Your circadian rhythm is essentially your wake and sleep pattern that dictates when your body naturally wants to sleep and wants to be awake. Light also affects your body’s clock. This means humans are naturally more alert when the sun is up in daytime hours. When the sun goes down, it is normal to get drowsy. It’s our body’s natural reaction to light stimuli. If you are taking a long road trip, leave early in the day to make the most of the daylight hours.
If you wake early and head out on your trip, you will have the benefit of a full day of travel during daylight hours, when you are naturally most alert—assuming that you got the required amount of sleep the night before.
Tip #2 – Stop About Once Every 2 hours and Get Active
Taking a short break every two hours is a good goal on a longer road trip. Stop for 10 to 15 minutes, and make sure to get your heart rate up. That’s a key to combating driving fatigue. When you exercise and stretch, you release endorphins, which can make you feel more alert and focused.
A few quick exercise recommendations for road trips
- Doing push-ups
- Jumping rope (Take the jump rope–5 minutes of jumping rope will give you a boost of energy and burn about 10 calories per minute while you are at it)
- Jogging in place
- Brisk walking
Tip #3 – Eat Well
Just because convenience stores are convenient does not mean they are healthy. Eating fruits and vegetables while on a road trip will give you more energy. Junk foods typically have a lot of sugar. Sugar creates a quick boost of energy, followed by that notorious sugar crash. Drink water, and eat healthy. It will help you feel focused and maintain your energy.
Tip #4 – Recognize Fatigued Drivers (including Truck Drivers)
Remember that you are not the only one on the road. Even if you are wide awake, there are other fatigued drivers on the road.
Drowsy driving is a particular problem among professional truck drivers, who often have erratic schedules and drive thousands of miles under tight delivery deadlines. Some trucking companies put profits ahead of safety and even put pressure on drivers to disregard the daily limits on the number of hours a commercial driver can operate a truck without a rest break.
Some truck drivers drive while dangerously fatigued. If a truck or other vehicle is weaving or appears to be operated by a driver who is falling asleep at the wheel, steer clear.
Look for a safe opportunity to pass, move quickly to pass when safe to do so, and stay clear. If you cannot pass, maintain more than your typical distance, and be patient. Keep an eye on the vehicle, and be prepared to stop if necessary.
Danger Signs – Stop as Soon as Possible
No matter how much planning you do for a long driving trip, your body may not cooperate. Plan for the possibility that your body may reject your plan to arrive at your destination in one very long day of driving. Listen to your body! If you experience any of the following warning signs of fatigue while driving, stop driving and get some rest.
Early Signs (Stop soon – 30 minutes)
- Repeated yawning
- Daydreaming, mind wandering
- Feeling tired
- Repeatedly rubbing eyes
Urgent Signs of Dangerously Drowsy Driving
- Difficulty remember the last few miles you have driven
- Head bobbing (head dropping or nodding)
- Drifting or coasting into other lanes
- Eyes closing
- Hitting the rumble strips or driving off the shoulder
Even a short one- to two-hour nap may be sufficient to give you a fresh burst of energy and help you be alert enough to reach your destination.
Hiring an Accident Lawyer in Florida
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a drowsy driver or a driver who fell asleep at the wheel, then you need aggressive representation to make sure you are properly compensated by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
If someone else is responsible for your injuries, you should not be left with the burden of unpaid medical expenses. The experienced attorneys of Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant, have been representing injured victims throughout Florida since 1973. With offices in Palm Coast and Ormond Beach, we are ready to discuss your accident claim. You have a right to be compensated for your pain and lost income. Call (386) 753-3221 to speak with someone about your case. Contact us today for help.