Sleepiness and driving is a dangerous combination.
Sleepiness or fatigue cause:
Impaired reaction time, judgment and vision
Problems with information processing and short-term memory
Decreased performance, vigilance and motivation
Increased moodiness and aggressive behaviors
Increased risk of crashing
Before hitting the road, drivers should:
Get a good night's sleep. While this varies from individual to individual, the average adult requires about 8 hours of sleep a night; adolescents need 8.5 to 9.25 hours each night.
Plan to drive long trips with a companion. Passengers can help look for warning signs of fatigue, talk to the driver, or switch drivers when needed.
Schedule regular stops, every 100 miles or two hours.
Avoid alcohol and medications that may impair performance.
Consult your physician if you suffer frequent daytime sleepiness, often have difficulty sleeping at night, and/or snore loudly every night.
If you are tired, recognize that you are in danger of falling asleep and cannot predict when a microsleep may occur.
Don't count on the radio, open window or other "tricks" to keep you awake.
Respond to symptoms of fatigue by finding a safe place to stop for a break.
Pull off into a safe area away from traffic and take a brief nap (15 to 45 minutes) if tired.
Drink coffee or another source of caffeine (soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee, tea, chewing gum, tablets) to promote short-term alertness if needed. (It takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream.) For best results, try taking caffeine and then a short nap to get the benefits of both.
How can you tell if you are "driving while drowsy"?
Signs that a driver should stop to rest include:
Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
Trouble keeping your head up
Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
Feeling restless and irritable
Being awake for 20 hours is
equal to a blood alcohol
concentration (BAC) of .08%,
which is legally drunk and
leaves you at risk for a crash.