Car accidents are caused by many things, but among the most prevalent causes is drowsy driving. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one in six deadly car crashes involves drowsy driving and one in eight car crashes that involves drowsy driving results in one or more of the passengers being hospitalized. If you find yourself on the road a lot, make sure you follow these tips to avoid drowsy driving.
1. Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Drowsy driving is obviously caused by feeling tired and sleepy. If you have to wake up and hit the road early, be sure you also go to bed early so you can get a full seven to nine hours of sleep before you start driving.
2. Bring A Passenger
It’s always nice to have someone to talk to on a long journey, but it’s also important to have someone who can watch for signs of fatigue. If your buddy notices that you’re starting to drift into another lane or that you can’t seem to keep your eyes open, he or she can take over for you. Depending on how long your car trip is going to be, you might want to take a few people with you, if you can. That way, everybody can take turns and you won’t have to worry about anyone feeling sleepy behind the wheel.
3. Make Regular Stops
It’s always best to pace yourself. Set up a pattern for breaks after every two or three hours or after every 100 miles, for instance. Stop somewhere where you can stretch your legs a bit and get something to eat or drink. Just by having a change of scenery and a chance to get out of the car and relax a bit will have you feeling refreshed and ready for the next leg of your journey.
4. Don’t Pressure Yourself
Part of pacing yourself is not putting pressure on yourself. You may feel like you need to get to your destination in a certain amount of time, causing yourself to rush. But driving for a long time without any breaks or pushing yourself to continue driving when you’re feeling tired is how accidents are caused. It’s better to relax and prepare yourself ahead of time. Know that you’ll probably hit some traffic and maybe even an accident or two on the way. Read the traffic reports so you know of any detours you may need to take. The more mentally prepared you are for the trip, the less likely you are to rush.
5. Be Careful About What You Eat and Drink
You may want to think again before you grab that cup of coffee and doughnut before setting off on your trip. Drinks that contain caffeine will wake you up, but they won’t keep you going. It’s also likely that those drinks contain high amounts of sugar, which is another driving no-no. Instead, choose a food that is high in protein and choose drinks like water or tea that don’t contain a lot of sugar.
This should go without saying, but avoid drinking any alcoholic drinks before driving as well as any medications that will make you drowsy, such as cold medications.
6. Take A Nap
If you feel yourself getting sleepy while driving, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to pull over and take a nap. Make sure you park in a safe place and stay in a hotel if possible. Even if you have to stay the night, that’s better than what could result from drowsy driving.
7. Don’t Force Yourself To Stay Awake
Some people suggest listening to music, rolling the window down or chewing gum to help keep yourself awake. But that’s not going to help in the long-run, and may even end up distracting you. The bottom line is: if you feel tired, don’t push yourself.
8. Don’t Drive When You Normally Are Asleep
Studies show that people who drive between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. are more likely to get in a car accident. If you drive during the hours that you normally are asleep, you’re more likely to be drowsy while driving.
9. Learn To Recognize The Signs Of Fatigue
If you must drive for long periods of time, learn to recognize the signs of fatigue so you know to pull over and rest for a while. The common signs of fatigue include drifting into other lanes, constant yawning, driving over rumble strips, difficulty keeping your eyes open or difficulty keeping focus, tailgating or missing road signs. If you find yourself displaying these signs of fatigue, you’re pushing yourself and it’s time to pull over and take a nap.
10. Drive Defensively
Unfortunately, you aren’t the only person on the road. Even if you follow all of these tips to avoid drowsy driving, you still have to worry about the other people on the road who may be drowsy themselves. In that case, drive defensively and keep yourself alert to ward off any accidents caused by other people’s lack of sleep.