Sleep Deprivation and Its Effects on Your Driving Abilities
Driving requires your full attention. This means you have to be ‘alive, alert, awake’ all the time when you’re behind the wheel. If you’ve ever driven your car feeling sleepy, you’ve probably realized that you put yourself and others at risk. For your own sake as well as other people on the road, avoid drowsy driving at all costs.
Worse than drunk driving
Drowsy driving has serious consequences, because trying to stay awake when your body is telling you to rest, can have similar effects on your bodily systems as consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Studies suggesting this have linked drowsiness on the road to reduced alertness, reaction time, memory, hand-eye coordination, information processing, and decision making, among many other negative effects to health and well-being.
One particular study conducted by researchers at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety–an American non-profit organization dedicated to preventing traffic crashes–even goes so far as to conclude that sleep-deprived drivers are more likely to cause car crashes than those driving under the influence. That’s because a drunk driver is still conscious of his actions, and thus may be able to drive slowly and react if something happens in front of them. On the other hand, when a sleepy driver nods off, braking, swerving, or any kind of reaction at all, will be impossible.
What to do when you start feeling sleepy
You can help keep yourself, your passengers, and other road users safe by keeping vigilant against signs of drowsiness. These include heavy eyelids, eyes losing focus, yawning constantly, trouble focusing, and dozing off. Once you are aware of these warning signs, begin to pull over, find a safe parking spot, and take a short nap. Sure, a caffeinated drink can help, but there’s no substitute for natural rest.
It can also help if you plan your travels and have a second driver along with you. Likewise, if you know you’re about to drive for an extended period, make sure to rest adequately before doing so. Know the hours of the day when you’re most alert, and keep your travels to within those times. You may even try using an anti-sleep alarm. These practical precautions will help lower your risk of falling asleep while driving.