Drivers try many tricks to stay awake on a long trip, but there are really only two solutions to drowsiness: a good night’s sleep or a nap.
Unfortunately, many drivers don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep a night, and a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety proves just how dangerous lack of rest can be.
Drivers who sleep fewer than five hours a night are four times more likely to be involved in a car crash. What’s more, nearly a third of drivers admit to recently driving when they had difficulty keeping their eyes open. Most responsible, law-abiding people would never think of drinking and driving but think nothing of regaling a dinner party with a harrowing drowsy driving story.
In fact, drowsy driving and drunk driving can be equally deadly. Drivers who sleep fewer than four hours a night are as impaired as someone with a 0.12 blood alcohol concentration, well above the legal limit of 0.08. So it should not be surprising that drowsiness contributes to more than 6,000 fatalities each year.
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. Maybe someday we’ll be able to hop in a self-driving car and nap on the way to work, but for now, everyone must pitch in to address this problem.
States should continue installing rumble strips on roads, and car manufacturers should continue developing lane departure warning technology that vibrates the wheel or seat if the driver drifts off the roadway. But ultimately, it’s drivers who must be responsible for their own actions. Don’t wait until you’re falling asleep to pull over. Plan ahead. Stop for a break every two hours. Take turns driving with a passenger. Avoid taking sleep-inducing medications before you hit the road.
Most importantly, make it a priority to get a good night of sleep. Your body will thank you – and so will everyone else on the road.
For more on this study, go to AAA.com/Drowsy.