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, on average there are 56,000 crashes annually in which driver drowsiness/fatigue was cited by police, with roughly 40,000 nonfatal injuries and 1,550 deaths.
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.
If you're driving drowsy
If you experience the above fatigue symptoms while driving, pull over safely and try the following:
- Ask another passenger to drive.
- Take a 15-20 minute nap if you're in a safe spot.
- Pull over at a rest stop or gas station, and walk around to feel refreshed.
To prevent nodding off in the first place, follow these additional tips.
Allow technology to assist
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.