10 Ways To Prevent Falling Asleep While Driving

Drowsy Driving Sign
Let's imagine you're taking a lengthy vacation and want to make sure you're always aware behind the wheel. You know what to do if you become sleepy on the road, but what can you do ahead of time to prepare? Here are some ideas for you.
  1. Download some intriguing podcasts or invest in satellite radio that you can take with you everywhere you go before your vacation.
  2. Another effective approach to keep yourself occupied is to listen to audiobooks; local library may have some suggestions.
  3. Avoid driving during usual sleeping hours, roughly midnight through 6 a.m. Late afternoon drowsiness is also prevalent.
  4. Avoid alcohol and cannabis. This should go without saying whenever you’re behind the wheel. Liquor or pot makes for dangerous driving decisions.
  5. Prescription medicines that cause drowsiness should be avoided. Check the labels of any medications you're taking to make sure they won't affect your ability to stay awake.
  6. The night before a big journey, get a decent night's sleep (7-8 hours).
  7. Talk to your doctor about how to drive safely if you have (or fear you have) a sleep issue like apnea.
  8. Plan your vacation ahead of time to prevent driving for large periods of time in one day. You'll be able to handle drowsiness better if you spread your journey out across two or more days.
  9. Make arrangements for company. Even if they aren't able to assist with driving, a friend or family member (even a youngster) can help you keep aware.
  10. Know where the rest spots are on your journey and keep an eye out for safe locations to pull over.
We've all experienced how tiredness can sneak up on us without us even realizing it, but there are a few warning signals that should alert you to the need to pull over.

7 Driving Drowsy Warning Signs 
  1. You're drifting out of your lane or slamming into the rumble strips.
  2. You realize you've been immersed in a daydream all of a sudden.
  3. You have a habit of yawning.
  4. You miss your exit or become lost or confused about your whereabouts.
  5. You're having trouble keeping your eyes open or you're blinking too much.
  6. You have no recollection of the last few miles you have drove.
  7. You suddenly realize you're tailgating the automobile in front of you.
If you notice any of these signs, you should take action right away to relieve your tiredness, even if it involves pulling over to the side of the road for a little nap. Any of those signals could mean you're going towards microsleep, a condition in which you sleep in small bursts while doing anything else.

Who is the most vulnerable to drowsy driving?

Drowsy driving, affects about one out of every 25 drivers every month. Although exact data on falling asleep at the wheel is difficult to come by, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that it causes 91,000 crashes each year, with 800 of these resulting in death.

Moreover, despite the fact that Americans have driven less during the pandemic, data reveals that we are having more accidents and driving more irresponsibly, including driving while tired or sleep-deprived.

Some populations are more vulnerable to it than others. If you fall into one of these groups, you're more likely to drive when drowsy.

Professional drivers: When they've been on the road for hours without stopping, long-haul truckers and others who drive professionally may experience sleepy driving. Federal restrictions limit the number of hours an interstate truck driver can travel per day to 11, with a ten-hour break between shifts.

Nearly 15 million Americans work evenings or alternate between night and day shifts. This can throw off the body's circadian rhythm, making getting to and from work difficult.

Those with untreated sleep problems: Those who suffer from sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or other sleep disorders are already dealing with the difficulties of interrupted or inadequate sleep. You run the danger of sleepy driving or falling asleep behind the wheel if you drive in this situation.

Young drivers: high school and college students lack the years of driving experience that older drivers have, and they frequently work long hours while studying and working a part-time job. Driving home after working or studying all night might be a recipe for catastrophe.

Male drivers: According to a study published in 2019 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, men had a harder time staying awake when driving than women.

Individuals who drive for rideshare firms like Uber should also be aware of the dangers of drowsy driving. In fact, in 2018, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) issued a policy statement warning rideshare drivers to be aware of the public safety risk they pose when driving when tired.

Drowsy driving can occur at any time of day, but it is most common between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. If you're used to sleeping during those hours, it's a good idea to be especially cautious if you're traveling late at night.

Anyone with a low resting heart rate in the 30-50 beats per minute.  

If you become drowsy while driving, you should:

Allow a friend to take the wheel. If you're driving with someone, they can take the wheel while you close your eyes and relax. Turn off the light every two hours or so.

Pull over to a safe location and take a brief sleep – this is possibly the most effective way to avoid drowsy driving. Consider bringing a weighted blanket with you in the drive so you can cozy up and fall asleep quickly. Even a half-hour snooze should suffice to rejuvenate you.

Every two hours, take a break. You don't have to wait until you're tired to use this advice; it's a good idea whenever you're on a long trip, regardless of how alert you are. Get out of the car, stroll around the parking lot, stretch, or jog in place when you come to a halt.

Take a coffee or energy drink break. Coffee isn’t an ideal stimulant, because it only works for a while and then leaves you more tired than before. And energy drinks contain sugar that provide a short-term lift — followed by a crash. But in a pinch, they can stave off drowsiness for the short term.

Avoid going too fast. You may believe that if you're sleepy, you should drive faster to get to your destination faster and nap - but this is risky thinking that could result in an accident or, at the absolute least, a speeding ticket.