Sometimes, it seems like 24 hours isn’t enough time to get all the things we need to do done. Between working, working, making time for family and friends, and working, it’s easy to scrimp on sleep.
While one less hour of sleep might seem relatively innocuous, sleep deprivation can lead to a host of problems, not the least of which is drowsy driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates (conservatively) that drowsy driving results in about 100,000 car accidents and $12.5 billion in losses each year. And as if that’s not enough, a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 16.5 percent of fatal crashes involved a tired driver.
What’s more, sleep deprivation can cause microsleeps, brief sleep episodes lasting a few seconds. If you’re in a meeting, a little shuteye will only result in a few snickers and some embarrassment on your part. Microsleeping behind the wheel, on the other hand, could quite possibly mean the difference between life and death (or at least an accident or not).
In honor of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®, here are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation to help you stay alert behind the wheel.
Before hitting the road
- Get your safety sleep. The average person needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep to function optimally. Getting 6 or less hours of sleep triples your risk for drowsy driving. So before long trips, or anysure you’re caught up on your Zs.
- Get a copilot. Not only will your drive be more enjoyable with a buddy or 3, passengers can look for warning signs of fatigue (like lane drifting) and can also help with driving when needed. Plus, during those unending stretches of highway when the only things of interest are a few lone trees and slow moving cattle, stimulating conversation could keep you engaged and alert.
- Don’t imbibe. Sure, everyone knows that when you mix drinking and driving, you get a risky (and expensive) cocktail. But did you know that alcohol, even just a tiny bit, can increase the effects of fatigue? Practice safe driving: don’t drink, drive, and drowse.
While on the road
- Schedule regular stops. Plan on stopping every 100 miles or 2 hours to give yourself a break and freshen up.
- Take a 15-minute nap. If you’re feeling drowsy, or find it hard to focus or stay in your lane, pull over to a safe spot and snooze for 15 minutes.
- Caffeinate. Yeah, it works. Experts recommend drinking the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee to keep awake. Just remember that it takes about 30 minutes for caffeine to enter your bloodstream and work its magic.
This week and every week, make sure you catch your 40 winks and then some. Not only will you feel more refreshed in the morning, you’ll stay safer on the roads as well.