Drowsy driving is dangerous—how can you stay alert on the road?
Talking, texting, and drinking are all common car-crash causes, but there's a lesser-known accident culprit: fatigue. The struggle to stay awake while driving may be more common than you realize: 37 percent of people have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel, according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation.
Fatigued driving isn't worth that risk: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 803 reported fatalities involving a drowsy driver in 2016.
Late night drivers, workers who had a long day, or those who haven't slept well should heed warning signs. If you're yawning, blinking a lot, or nodding off—or if you can't focus—think twice about getting on the road.
Steps to stay alert
To help reduce your chances of falling asleep behind the wheel, follow these common sense steps to stay alert and safe on the road:
- Get enough sleep at night. Drivers who sleep less than six hours each night are at an increased risk of getting into an accident as those who get at least eight hours. It's even worse for those who sleep five hours or less.
- Pull over. If you feel bored, restless, are having a hard time concentrating or have tired eyes, you need a break. Pull over to a rest stop, stretch, take a short nap or switch drivers. Take a break every two hours.
- Adjust your car's settings. Stay more alert by keeping the temperature cool, playing loud, high-energy music, turning off the cruise control, and placing your seat back in an upright position.
- Wear sunglasses during the day. Bright sunlight can cause you to squint, making your eyes tired.
- Watch what you eat and drink. Caffeine and sugary products don't ensure mental alertness. Instead, opt for water or juice, and high-protein foods rather than heavier fare.
Smart tech combating sleeping behind the wheel
Though it's no replacement for a good night's rest, current automotive technology can help pinpoint signs of drowsy driving and help prevent collisions.
- Fatigue warning systems track your steering, blink rate duration and other behaviors and will alert you if they suspect sleepiness.
- Lane departure warning and prevention systems monitor your vehicle's position and react if you're in danger of drifting into another lane.
- Forward collision warning systems use sensors to follow vehicles in front of yours and may engage automatic braking to prevent accidents.
Drowsy driving can impair your skills, leading to potentially disastrous consequences. Learn more about the dangers of distracted driving.