Tips on how to prevent drowsy driving driving car accidents
There is no safe way to drive when you're tired. Drowsy drivers kill nearly 800 people and cause an estimated 91,000 crashes across the U.S. each year.
Research has shown that people who go 17-19 consecutive hours without sleep are even more impaired when driving than people with a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.05 percent.
With the Florida Department of Transportation's Drowsy Driving Prevention Week coming up September 1-8, 2020, it's important that we address the issue.
What are the drowsy driving risk factors?
Anyone can be at risk of drowsy driving at some point. It only takes a night of losing a few hours of sleep to experience heavy eyelids on the commute home from work or while embarking on a long trip.
Some people are generally at a greater risk of drowsy driving than others, including:
- Commercial truck drivers
- Business travelers
- People who work night shifts or rotating shifts
- Parents of young children
- Younger drivers (under age 25)
- People with undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders
For those who don't fall into these demographics, there are outside factors that can contribute to the risk of drowsy driving:
- Driving at night or during the early morning hours
- Desolate roads with few changes
- Driving between 1-3 p.m.
- Long trips
How can drivers stay awake on long trips?
Changing Lanes, which is a BMW podcast that discusses transportation concerns, offers some important tips on how to reduce drowsiness during long driving trips.
Recognizing the signs of drowsiness:
Drivers can't control when they fall asleep, but they can learn to recognize the warning signs of drowsiness. According to SleepFoundation.Org, these include:
- Poor focus and concentration
- Heavy eyelids and frequent blinking
- Wandering thoughts or daydreaming
- Missing exits and signs, and forgetting the last few miles driven
- Frequent yawning
- Difficulty keeping your head up
- Lane drifting
- Restlessness and irritability
Before a long trip, it's important that drivers take proper safety precautions ahead of time, to prevent drowsiness from happening in the first place. This can be done by:
- Getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night
- Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and energized
- Eating properly and not overeating (overeating can cause drowsiness)
- Avoiding alcoholic beverages, as this can induce drowsiness
- Not driving after taking prescription sedatives or over-the-counter medications
- Avoiding driving during times when drowsiness is at its peak (2-5 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.)
Maintaining alertness on the road:
Spending several hours driving can be exhausting. There are ways to mitigate this exhaustion and maintain alertness while driving, including:
- Taking power naps no longer than 20 minutes every four hours
- Taking frequent breaks, going for short walks and getting fresh air
- Engaging in conversation with passengers
- Listening to music or a podcast
Short term fixes:
Drivers who only have a short distance to travel to reach their destination may temporarily prolong their alertness by using these short-term fixes:
- Consuming sugar, caffeine or energy drinks to temporarily boost energy
- Chewing gum to temporarily increase circulation to the brain
- Opening the window for a temporary boost of oxygen
- Listening to loud music for a short cognitive distraction
Get a lawyer if you were hurt in a drowsy driving crash
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a drowsy driving car accident, you need a strong legal advocate on your side. Attorney David J. Glatthorn has been serving injured motorists in West Palm Beach and South Florida for more than 25 years. He knows how to investigate crashes caused by negligence and fight for fair compensation for his clients.