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Published on Nov 11, 2011 by Edgar Snyder

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week: Tips to Keep You Safe and Alert

Drowsy driving

This scenario might be familiar to you – you're driving along when your eyelids start to get heavy. You put down the windows, turn on the radio, and try your best to stay awake. Eventually it becomes almost impossible to keep your eyes open, and you feel yourself on the brink of nodding off. What would you do? Would you find somewhere to stop and rest, or would you continue on, betting on your ability to stay awake?

I hope that everyone would choose to be safe and get off of the road at the first sign of drowsiness. Numerous studies have found that driving while drowsy is just as dangerous as drunk driving. And yet it's something that happens much too often – a recent poll by AAA found that about 168 million people admitted to driving while drowsy in the previous year, and 37% of people reported actually falling asleep behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 100,000 car accidents that are reported to the police each year are the result of drowsiness. And this is a conservative estimate because it's difficult to identify exactly which crashes are caused by driver fatigue.

This week is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, and a number of safety organizations are trying to raise awareness about this serious issue. They offer the following tips:

  • Try not to drive between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. when the urge to sleep is the strongest. Drowsy driving accidents also often occur between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. during the circadian dip in alertness, or the "mid-afternoon slump."
  • Caffeine isn't a substitute for adequate rest, but it can help alertness. If you don't suffer from insomnia or another medical condition that is aggravated by caffeine, coffee or another caffeinated beverage can help if you're feeling tired and must drive.
  • Pull over. If you are having the symptoms of sleepiness, don't assume you can make yourself stay awake. Try to find a safe place and take a 10-20 minute nap. Studies have shown that shorter naps lead to increased alertness.
  • Try not to drive alone for long distances, especially if it's the middle of the night.
  • Take a break every two hours if you're driving a long distance.
  • Parents –talk to your children, especially if they drive, about the dangers of driving while drowsy.
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