Drowsy driving has become an epidemic around the U.S. About one in 25 drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the last month. An even higher number report driving tired or drowsy. Drowsy drivers may cause up to 6,000 fatal car accidents per year. Anyone can succumb to drowsy driving, but those with sleep disorders, lack of sleep, commercial driving jobs, or night shift workers are most at risk. Use these tips to avoid driving while tired and to prevent yourself from being involved in a related car accident in Houston.
Learn the Signs of Drowsy Driving
Often, drowsy driving creeps up on drivers without them realizing they should pull over. A driver can feel fine one moment and fall asleep the next. There are signs that can indicate to a driver that it is time to pull over and sleep. If you notice any of the following while driving, you are too sleepy to safely continue:
- Frequent blinking, slow blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Difficulty focusing on the road
- Mind wandering off
- Trouble remembering the last few miles
- Repeated yawning
- Nodding head
- Drifting from your lane
- Feeling irritable
Even small lapses in attention due to drowsiness can be enough to cause an accident. As soon as you detect signs of drowsiness, pull over and rest. Every minute you spend on the road while too tired to drive is another minute you put your life and the lives of others in danger.
Don’t Drive While Medicated
It’s not only illegal drugs that can be dangerous for drivers. Many legal and prescription drugs also have harmful side effects that make a driver incapable of safely operating a vehicle. Always check with your doctor and read the label on over-the-counter drugs to find out if you should wait before driving. Medications such as pain relievers with morphine or codeine are unsafe for use before driving, as are many anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications. If the drug may cause drowsiness, don’t take it before driving.
Deal with Sleep Disorders
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Many have undiagnosed sleep disorders, and they may not realize why they feel drowsy during the day. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome, see a doctor for help. There are treatments for sleep disorders that can help you get a good night’s rest, and prevent drowsy driving.
Pull Over and Sleep
If you feel too tired to drive, pull over someplace safe, such as a secure rest area, and sleep. There is no substitute for sleep. Coffee, energy drinks, and other methods are not enough to make you alert enough to drive, and they can lead to an energy crash later. Sleep for at least 20 minutes, then continue to drive until you feel too tired again. Avoid driving at night or driving for long hours if possible. Drive with a passenger who can stay away with you, or take shifts driving. When in doubt, pull over and rest.