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Prevent Accidents by Drowsy Drivers

One in eight fatal crashes involves a sleepy driver. Here's how you can make sure you stay wide awake behind the wheel.

Via Staff
man trying to hold his eyes open, image
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Photo: pathdoc/Shutterstock
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If you have to prop your eyes open, don't get behind the steering wheel.

Wake up! Occasionally we drive when we’re sleepy. Bad idea. Of every eight fatal crashes, one involves a drowsy driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Sleepiness slows reaction times and impairs judgment; people who are very sleepy drive much like people who are drunk.

To prevent drowsiness:

  • Get at least six hours of sleep the night before a trip.
  • Travel at times when you are normally awake.
  • On long trips, stay overnight rather than driving between midnight and 6 a.m., the hours when drivers are especially likely to have sleep-related crashes.
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles.

If you begin to feel drowsy while driving:

  • Drink coffee or tea with caffeine.
  • Get out of the car and exercise.
  • Pull over and take a nap; 15 or 20 minutes of sleep can be enough to restore your alertness.

Drivers ages 16 to 24 have nearly three times more risk of sleep-related crashes than more mature drivers. Young drivers should be especially careful to:

  • Make sleep—at least 8½ hours a night—a priority.
  • Never drive under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or sleepiness, or ride with anyone who is.

This article was first published in November 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.