I have always found that it is not a good idea to catch up on your beauty sleep while driving a car.

I remember being on a road trip and I was about 20 miles from home, but I was driving fatigued to the point that I could barely keep my eyes open.  I knew that I should pull off the road, get out of the car and walk around a bit; maybe get something to drink and some fresh air, but I just kept on driving. I thought about getting a hotel room, but it was so close to home. By the time I checked in, I’d be wide awake and wishing that I had driven the rest of the way. The car leaving the pavement is actually what jolted me awake.

Many state laws consider drowsy driving to be just as dangerous as drunk driving, and there are strict penalties. Much like intoxication, sleepiness slows down reaction time, while it also decreases awareness and impairs judgment. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), fatigued driving or drowsy driving is the principal cause of up to 100,000 vehicle crashes every year. Reports say at least 1,500 people are killed and 71,000 injured!  While these numbers are staggering, there are yet more numbers of fatigue-related crashes that go unreported.

These are primarily passenger vehicle crashes. Less than 1% of all sleep-related crashes involve truckers. Federal laws prohibit truckers to drive more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period. My grandfather was a trucker who spent his career hauling fuel cross-country. Back then, truckers could for drive for days without sleep. In those days, people thought that drinking coffee, or taking over the counter meds would keep them awake. It was also common to take illegal drugs such as Amphetamines to stay awake.

But we all know that what goes up must eventually come down. Truckers would get what they called “white line fever” (a song by Merle Haggard, R.I.P., sniff…). But now I’m thinking that white line fever must have had two meanings (snort, sniff…).

Here is a list compiled by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, of the top 10 things you can do to avoid falling asleep at the wheel:

  1.     If you feel sleepy, stop driving. Pull over, get out and get a beverage.
  2.     If you get a caffeinated beverage, wait about 30 minutes for it to kick-in. You can take a quick nap in the meantime.
  3.     Get plenty of sleep the night before your trip (6 hours or more).
  4.     Don’t leave for a long road trip right after work.
  5.     Drive during the hours that you are normally awake and stay in a hotel at your normal bedtime.
  6.     If you are planning to drive straight through, take a nap between midnight and dawn.
  7.     Avoid carbohydrates since they can make you drowsy. Protein enriched foods and beverages are best.
  8.     Avoid cold and allergy meds or any substances that may make you drowsy.
  9.     Have a passenger in the front seat to talk to.
  10.  Pull over every two hours or every 100 miles. Even if you don’t feel like you need to. It’ll give you, your passengers and your car a break. Try to only drive 300-400 miles per day.

Until next week…

Daun Thompson

Writer / Comedienne / Artist

Driving Fatigued – Comedy Defensive Driving