At some point, we have all driven while feeling tired. It's dangerous for drivers to assume that they can stay awake when their eyelids start to get heavy. There are many drivers who think they can make it just a little bit longer, but suddenly they dose off at the wheel.
According to researchers from Australia and New Zealand, drivers who stay awake for 17-19 consecutive hours can be more impaired than drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 percent. That's because drowsy driving can cause loss of memory, poor concentration, poor judgment and an inability to stay within the lines on the road.
Another common danger linked to drowsy driving is microsleep. This happens when drivers fall asleep for only a few seconds. At a speed of 55 mph, a driver may travel 135 yards while asleep at the wheel when dozing off for only five seconds. That's just enough time to cause a catastrophe.
How can drowsy driving be prevented?
Changing Lanes is a BMW podcast that discusses important transportation topics. On episode #12, the podcast hosts offer important tips on how to prevent drowsy driving while on long trips.
Drowsy driving is a common cause of crashes involving truck drivers, business travelers and other people embarking on long trips. Some effective ways to stay awake include:
- Recognizing the warning signs of drowsiness. This may include frequent blinking or yawning, heavy eyelids, trouble concentrating, loss of memory and difficulty staying in a lane.
- Getting enough sleep. It's recommended that people get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, especially before a long trip.
- Take power naps every 4 hours. Long distance drivers should take a 20 minute nap every four hours on the road. Power naps should be no longer than 20 minutes or that can induce more drowsiness.
- Avoiding driving during risky times. Drivers are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel between 2-5 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. It's best to avoid driving during these times.
- Taking frequent breaks. It's always a good idea to get out of the car and go for walks to stay energized during a long trip.
- Avoid overeating before driving. Overeating can lead to drowsiness. It's best to eat a small or medium-size meal before embarking on a long trip.
- Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is a good way to stay energized during a long trip. This can be done by drinking adequate amounts of water and avoiding coffee or alcohol.
- Stay mentally engaged. Driving on a long trip can be boring and exhausting. Staying mentally engaged by listening to music or having a conversation with a passenger can keep drivers from dozing off.
- Never drive after taking sedative medications. Certain over-the-counter and prescription meds can induce drowsiness. It's best to avoid taking any of these before a long driving trip.
Short-term fixes for drowsiness
- Consume sugar and caffeine. This is in no way a long-term solution to drowsy driving, but can help drivers stay temporarily alert when they only have a short distance left to drive.
- Open the window. Letting in some fresh air can increase oxygen and temporarily boost alertness.
- Chew gum. This can help increase circulation to the brain and temporarily prevent falling asleep.
- Listen to loud music. Loud music can temporarily promote alertness, but the effect can wear off quickly.
You can listen to the podcast below:
Contact a Nashville lawyer if you're injured by a drowsy driver
If you were injured in a crash caused by a drowsy driver, know your rights. Speak to an experienced Nashville car accident attorney who can investigate your crash and advocate for fair and complete compensation.