6 Ways to Avoid Drowsy Driving

Woman yawning with eyes closed while driving a car

Updated in 2018 Based on Study from AAA

Driving while tired might not seem like a big deal, especially given how packed some of our schedules are, offering little opportunity for a night of adequate rest. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatigued driving caused about 72,000 accidents, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. Fatigued driving can actually impair one’s reflexes in a manner that is nearly equivalent to that of a drunk driver, creating a dangerous situation that puts not only the driver’s life on the line but others on the road as well.

Do your part to improve road safety and avoid driving while drowsy. Here are some tips:

  1. Get some sleep: This seems like the most obvious tip, of course, but the fact is that if drivers were more fully rested, they would be more alert behind the wheel. Understand how drowsiness and fatigue affect you and avoid driving if you are not well-rested.
  2. Drive with a friend: If you can carpool with a friend, this is also another great way to help remain alert. According to a UCLA study, 82% of fatigued driving accidents were caused by single-occupant vehicles. With a passenger, you are less likely to fall asleep and, if that passenger has a license, he or she might be able to take over for you if you need a nap.
  3. Make use of rest stops: Rest stops exist for a reason and are designed to provide a safe space for drivers to park and, if necessary, take a nap. In some cases, rest stops limit the amount of time one can remain there, but it should be adequate enough for one to get just enough rest to feel more alert.
  4. Chew some gum: This might seem like a silly suggestion, but gum chewing exercises your jaw muscles, which actually stimulates your senses and increases alertness. If you are not hungry or thirsty, this act can provide a good temporary source of energy.
  5. Turn on some tunes: If you are driving alone, music can be your absolute best friend. Instead of listening to it at a high volume, listen to energetic or upbeat music.
  6. Drive during the day: Generally, we are more awake and alert during daylight hours. Sunlight has a stimulating effect on the brain and extends a person’s reaction time while behind the wheel. Additionally, sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D, which promotes better, more restful sleep.

AAA recently release data showing that fatigued driving is a bigger traffic safety issue than federal estimates show and is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

In the most extensive drowsy driving study ever conducted in the United States, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that the percentage of crashes involving drowsiness is nearly eight times higher than federal estimates.

The AAA study found that drowsy driving is one of the most under-reported traffic safety issues. Researchers used analysis of in-vehicle dash cam video from more than 700 crashes to confirm that crashes involving drowsy driving soars above official estimates.

“Drivers who don’t get enough sleep are putting everyone on the road at risk," said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "By conducting an in-depth analysis using video of everyday drivers, we can now better assess if a driver was fatigued in the moments leading up to a crash.”

In the study, researchers closely examined video of drivers’ faces in the three minutes leading up to a crash. Using a scientific measure linking the percentage of time a person’s eyes are closed to their level of drowsiness, the researchers determined that 9.5 percent of all crashes and 10.8 percent of crashes resulting in significant property damage involved drowsiness. Federal estimates indicate drowsiness is a factor in only one to two percent of crashes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of US drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily. In a recent related AAA Foundation survey, nearly all drivers (96 percent) say they view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and an unacceptable behavior.

"Missing just two to three hours of sleep can more than quadruple your risk for a crash, which is the equivalent of driving drunk,” said Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA.

AAA says drivers can seek to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel by paying attention to the following dangerous warning signs:

  • Having trouble keeping your eyes open
  • Drifting from your lane
  • Not remembering the last few miles driven

AAA stresses that drivers should prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep before hitting the road.

Recommendations for drivers:

  • Travel at times of the day when you are normally awake
  • Avoid heavy foods
  • Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles
  • Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving
  • Take a quick catnap, at least 20 minutes but no longer than 20 minutes, for long drives

Source: AAA

Our Attorneys Can Help

The attorneys at Metzger Wickersham know firsthand the dangers of dangerous behaviors like drowsy, distracted, drunken or drugged driving. If you've been injured in a crash caused by a negligent driver, call on our accident attorneys for legal guidance. With 135 years of representation to Pennsylvania communities, we have earned a reputation for being one of the most trusted personal injury legal teams in the region.

At Metzger Wickersham, our skilled car accident attorneys are committed to fighting for the rights of injured victims and helping them obtain compensation for their pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, and more. If you sustained injuries in a car accident caused by a negligent party, you can turn to us for help.

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