Drowsy driving is one of the biggest preventable hazards of the road. Getting an appropriate amount rest and adequate sleep can help ensure alert and attentive driving, and in turn ensure a safer trip on the road for commercial and private drivers alike.
Called “the third ‘D’ of preventable accidents” by the Chicago Tribune, alongside distracted driving and drunken driving, drowsy driving is the single driving hazard in the pantheon that can affect all drivers. While not all drivers may text or drink, all on the road are susceptible to fatigue.
In the Tribune article, Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, notes that while recent data is limited and largely outdated, current estimates put driver fatigue as the cause of between 2 and 20 percent of all traffic deaths annually.
In a 2011 report, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted that 2.2 to 2.6 percent of all fatal accidents annually involved drowsy driving as a factor. The same report also noted, however, that that number is likely underreported due to lack of evidence, drivers who may be unaware or reluctant to admit fatigue playing a role, or the death of the driver.
Smart Motorist notes that if you find yourself excessively daydreaming or yawning or if you begin to drift over the center or edge of road lines that you may be suffering from drowsy driving. You may also be fatigued if you cannot remember the previous few minutes on the road or the last few miles, or if you are increasing and decreasing speed unintentionally.
Smart Motorist also offers many tips to help stay rested on the road, including:
• Take a break every two hours to prevent fatigue
• Plan breaks on long trips, and avoid driving during normal sleeping hours
• Rely on caffeine only for short bursts of alertness; water and healthy snacks can promote a more wakeful and alert mentality
• Stop for a power nap if you begin to feel fatigued; even a brief nap of only 20 minutes can improve alertness and restore energy
By paying attention to the warning signs and ensuring that you are rested and refreshed while you’re behind the wheel, you can help prevent accidents from happening and help make the roads safer for everyone.