Dozing and Driving: Avoid Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel

We’ve all seen the news and heard the horror stories- for a lot of people, a car will be the most dangerous weapon they will ever operate during their lifetime. While the effects of drug and alcohol on a driver are discussed on a regular basis, driving when you’re sleep deprived can be equally dangerous.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that every year, at least 100,000 police-reported crashes are the result of driver fatigue.This results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. These figures are underestimated, since it is often difficult to determine driver fatigue in car accidents. Unlike the breathalyzer test for intoxication, there is no scientific way to conclude fatigue.

While not driving when you’re drowsy may seem like a no brainer, just like you would hope that someone who’s had too much to drink wouldn’t drive, many people have a hard time judging themselves and their capability when driving tired. If you’re unsure about your level of fatigue and if you should be driving, ask yourself these questions, courtesy of Health Guidance.

  • How much sleep did you have the night before driving? If you haven’t slept in 16 hours or more, you should not be driving.
  • How long have you been driving? If the answer is eight hours or more in a row, it’s time to take a break.
  • When was the last rest stop you hit? It’s important to take a break every two to three hours on long trips.
  • What are the weather conditions like? Don’t be a hero, if it’s raining cats and dogs, stop at a McDonald’s and grab a bite to eat.

To prevent sleep deprivation before it starts and causes you problems on the road, here are a few tips to getting a better night’s sleep before getting behind the wheel.

  • Try to get into the habit of a bedtime ritual which should consist of a similar routine each night: ie: going to bed around the same time each night, sleeping on a comfortable and supportive mattress, reading before bed, listening to music, etc.  Having a routine makes it easier to fall asleep each night.
  • If you’re getting eight hours or more of sleep a night and are still experiencing excessive daytime fatigue, see your doctor to determine if there is an underlying issue, like sleep apnea.
  • Believe it or not, obesity can play a role in excessive fatigue. If you are overweight, work to create a diet and exercise plan to help bring down your weight and increase your energy throughout the day. In the same vain, exercising daily will also help you to get a sound night of sleep. Try to avoid exercising after 7:00 p.m., the activity could prevent you from sleeping due to over stimulation.
Man sleeping on steering wheel

Photo Credit: InternationalLiving.com

Try to recognize the signs of fatigue before you get behind the wheel, and always remember, a good day starts with a good night of sleep!

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