According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are 100,000 car crashes annually caused by driver fatigue. About 1,550 of those crashes result in deaths, and 71,000 cause injury.
To head off this preventable driving hazard, drivers should follow some common-sense rules. First, don’t drive drowsy. When you’re tired, your reaction time is much slower, meaning you can’t safely respond to unforeseen actions by other motorists, pedestrians, or animals in the road. Signs that you’re tired include:
- Difficulty staying in the driving lane
- Noticing your mind wandering away from the task of driving or difficulty remembering where you are in your journey
- Yawning and difficulty keeping your eyes open
Opening the window, blaring the radio and drinking caffeine are only temporary answers. One thing that may sometimes help is driving with a companion — preferably one who will notice when you’re getting too tired and can share the driving burden.
The people most at-risk for drowsiness-related accidents are people you’d typically think of: People tired already. New parents, people with chronic sleep problems, late-shift workers and long-haul truckers, along with young and inexperienced drivers.
The best thing is to have a plan. If you know you have a long journey ahead of you, see if a companion can come along, and make sure there will be places you can pull over and rest. Make sure you’re rested before you begin the journey, too.
The NHTSA reports that the only responsible response to fatigue is to give yourself a break: pull over and sleep, preferably every couple of hours or every 100 miles or so.