In today’s busy world, it’s hard to get a good night's rest. However, driver fatigue is a serious problem. According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, almost 20 percent of all drivers admit to having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point. At any given time, you can expect that almost half of all motorists are driving while drowsy.
Recognizing the signs of driver fatigue is a key part of knowing how to prevent falling asleep at the wheel. The signs of driver fatigue can vary from person to person, but may include yawning, increased irritability, sore eyes, and a general feeling of restlessness. Missing road signs, tailgating, having difficulty staying in the correct lane, hitting a shoulder rumble strip, and slow reactions to the behavior of other drivers are also serious warning signs of driver fatigue.
Driver fatigue is somewhat related to the amount of time spent driving, which is the reason why experts recommend taking a short break after an hour or two on the road. However, studies of how to prevent falling asleep at the wheel have revealed that most fatigue-related crashes happen during the late night and early morning hours or in the early afternoon when the body’s natural circadian rhythms start to drop. To stay safe, it is best to limit your driving during these times as much as possible.
Drowsiness is a common side effect of many over-the-counter and prescription medications. To avoid falling asleep at the wheel, it’s important to understand how your medicine may affect you. Ask your doctor for advice on the potential side effects of any new medication and avoid driving until you are certain how you will react to a particular medicine.
Many people believe that consuming coffee or other amounts of caffeinated beverages is the best way to prevent falling asleep at the wheel. It’s true that a small amount of caffeine can help temporarily increase alertness, but too much coffee or soda can make you nervous and jittery. Studies have shown that tricks such as playing loud music and opening your vehicle windows will not increase alertness at all. A better way to prevent falling asleep at the wheel is to pull over and take a short nap. Even resting for just 15 to 20 minutes will have a dramatic impact on your ability to drive safely.