Asleep at the Wheel: The Dangers of Drowsy Driving


You may think that drowsy driving is something that adults battle the most, but in reality, teenagers are more susceptible to exhaustion behind the wheel. That’s right, younger doesn’t exactly mean more energy. In fact, the majority of fatigue-related collisions involve drivers that are 25 or younger. That’s because teens are supposed to get 9 hours of sleep each night, but thanks to school, homework, extracurricular activities, and work, only 1 in 5 teenagers are getting that much sleep on weeknights. And with over 100,000 car accidents caused by tiredness behind the wheel every year, sleepy teenagers are taking an awful risk. Luckily, prevention is fairly simple. It starts with recognizing when you’re too tired to drive.

Signs of Drowsy Driving:

•    Frequent yawning
•    Inability to keep your eyes open
•    Trouble holding your head up
•    Wandering thoughts/reveries
•    Drifting into another lane
•    Missing road signs or driving past turns

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, stop somewhere to get a caffeinated drink, or pull over in a safe area and take a quick 15-20 minute nap. Though it might be an inconvenience, it’s worth the time to ensure you don’t fall asleep behind the wheel. As Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation, puts it: “Unfortunately, most drivers underestimate the risks associated with drowsy driving and overestimate their ability to deal with it – that’s a dangerous combination.” Don’t try to fight through fatigue if it’s impairing your ability to drive well. If you can’t give the road your full attention, you shouldn’t be on it.

Don’t Let It Happen to You
While dealing with drowsiness when you’re already behind the wheel is important, there are steps you can take to keep the problem from happening in the first place.  Follow these tips to prevent driver’s seat fatigue from setting in:
•    Get to bed early to allow yourself a full night’s sleep
•    Have a set bedtime so you’re not disrupting your internal clock
•    Take short naps during the day when you feel you need them
•    Avoid caffeine consumption too close to the time you go to sleep
•    Call for a ride if you feel too tired to drive at the end of the day

What to Avoid
In addition, stay away from these behaviors:
•    Driving when on medication that causes drowsiness
•    Driving late at night, at times when you should be asleep
•    Driving alone if you are going a long distance

It’s not always easy to follow these suggestions, but you keep yourself and other road users safer when you do. Not to mention the other benefits that come with getting the proper amount of sleep. So rest up!

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