As the days get shorter and darkness sets in sooner, you might notice increased fatigue throughout your day. But be careful: A sleepy driver can be just as dangerous to be around as a drunk driver or a speeding driver! In fact, drowsy driving is a factor in over 20% of fatal crashes and sleeping less than six hours at night can triple your risk!
Drowsy driving has serious consequences. Between 2012 and October 2015, there were over 4700 collisions investigated in Washington State where the driver either fell asleep, was fatigued or both behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
People who drive tired or drowsy have impaired reaction time, judgment, vision, awareness of surroundings, and decision making skills. The warning signs of a tired or drowsy driver are trouble keeping eyes open and head up, difficulty focusing, yawning repeatedly, and missing highway exits or traffic signs.
“Drowsy driving is as dangerous as getting behind the wheel while under the influence,” said Chief John Batiste, Washington State Patrol. “A simple awareness by drivers can prevent them from getting behind the wheel tired and taking a life.”
That’s why the National Sleep Foundation and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee have declared November 2-8 “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.” Join us in “waking up” and practicing alert driving strategies. If you know you’re tired, but you have to drive somewhere, plan a little extra time to prepare:
– Have a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage
– Get some fresh air
– Take a power nap before you hit the road
– Listen to energizing music or a podcast that interests you
– Keep the temperature in the car cooler
For longer trips, observe these tips for staying awake behind the wheel:
– Get a good night’s sleep before hitting the road
– Don’t be too rushed to arrive at your destination
– Take a break every two hours or 100 miles to refresh
– Use the buddy system to keep you awake and share driving chores
– Avoid alcohol, drugs and medications that cause drowsiness as a side effect
– Avoid driving when you would normally be sleeping
Then, slowly adjust your bedtime an hour or two earlier than usual and remember: A good night’s sleep is not a luxury. It’s a necessity!