Do you suffer from driving fatigue? Are late night work shifts impacting your ability to drive? If yes, then it’s time to reevaluate your safety behind the wheel. Unfortunately, driving while drowsy has become all too common within the U.S., which is why many drivers are now advocating for greater safety technologies and a general awareness of this growing concern. Although crash avoidance technologies, such as drowsiness alert and lane departure warning, are revolutionizing the way drivers maneuver roadways, the issue of driving fatigue is still present.
Common signs of drowsiness and fatigue while driving include:
- Frequent yawning
- Difficulty keeping your eyes open
- Urge to nod off while operating a vehicle
- Lack of mental agility (i.e. forgetting the last few miles you’ve driven)
- Drifting in and out of your lane
- Irregular speed patterns
- Breaking traffic laws (i.e. running a stop sign)
If you’re experiencing some or all of the above encounters, it’s time to take preventative measures to increase your safety on the road. Here is our best advice for fending off drowsiness and maintaining passenger safety at all times.
Reduce driving fatigue with these proven safety tips:
Start your trips early in the day
After the first hour or so of waking up is when a driver is most alert. This means it’s important to plan your trips ahead of time and aim for a morning departure if possible. While timing is everything, you should also avoid any tedious and grueling tasks before hitting the road. For example, don’t spend the entire morning moving out of your apartment and then set out on a seven hour drive. Chances are you’ll be exhausted and unable to maintain total focus for the duration of the trip.
Always maintain good posture while driving
As much as you’d like to remain comfortable in the front seat, its crucial to sit upright and keep your eyes focused on the road ahead. A good rule of thumb is to always make sure your seat is moved forward enough so that your legs aren’t fully extended. Any position that allows you to relax or stretch out completely may lead to fatigue-related crashes.
Create a stimulating and energized environment
If you fight drowsiness often, it’s surely not the time to hit play on your meditation playlist. Instead, drivers should maintain a safe yet stimulating environment to cruise in day or night. Play upbeat music, keep the volume at an alert level, and avoid any sleep-inducing podcasts or audio books. While you don’t want any distractions in the car, sometime as simple as turning the A/C down a few notches will help keep your body alert.
Take a break (or two)
According to the National Safety Council, you are three times more likely to be in a car crash if you are fatigued. Because of this reality, it’s imperative for drivers to be in sync with what their body needs. When fatigue kicks in, take the opportunity to stop at a rest stop. Stretch your legs, go on a walk, or even rest your eyes for a bit to let your mind and body recharge before the remainder of the trip. Any amount of time that’s lost from stopping is well worth your safety and the danger of falling asleep behind the wheel.
Other tips for combating driving fatigue
- Prioritize sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, adults should receive seven or more hours of sleep per night. Any amount below that recommended time frame may result in driving fatigue on the road.
- Be cautious of medication side-effect warnings. Certain medications may cause drowsiness or unexpected reactions that can impair a driver’s capabilities. If you’ve recently started taking any new medications, make sure to read the labels and any potential side-effects.
- Spread awareness amongst college students. Reports show that the average university student gets less than seven hours of sleep per night; sometimes as little as four to five hours if lucky. Since late night study sessions and poor lifestyle habits are common among college-age individuals, driving fatigue remains a concern.
In general, it can be said that driving fatigue directly impacts a person’s reaction time and awareness of hazards. In some cases, a driver might not even know they are suffering from fatigue. Practice safe driving at all times to ensure you and those around you are not in danger of a life-threatening injury or death. If you can’t resist the urge to close your eyes, pull over immediately to a safe waiting area. Due to the risk of driving while fatigued, it’s best to take a short nap before continuing on your journey.