Driver fatigue causes more than 100,000 police-reported crashes each year, resulting in an estimated 1,500 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
Some warning signs you may experience that signify drowsiness while driving are:
What can be done in advance to avoid drowsy driving altogether?
Get a good night's sleep: The amount needed varies from individual to individual, but sleep experts recommend between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Plan to drive long trips with a companion: Passengers can help look for early warning signs of fatigue, and switching drivers may be helpful. Passengers should stay awake and monitor the driver's condition.
Take regular breaks: Schedule regular stops - every 100 miles or 2 hours, even if you don't feel tired, and more often if you feel like you need it.
Avoid alcohol and medications: If medications warn that they cause or may cause drowsiness, avoid taking them before driving. If you must take certain prescription medications that cause drowsiness, don't drive immediately after taking them.
You should never consume alcohol before driving in the first place, but it is especially important to realize that alcohol interacts with fatigue, increasing sleepiness. If you are already tired, even a small quantity of alcohol may increase your sleepiness and risk of crashing, even if your blood alcohol level is well below the legal limit.
Consult your physician or a local sleep disorders center: If you suffer frequent daytime sleepiness, experience difficulty sleeping at night, and/or snore loudly on a regular basis, consult your physician or a local sleep disorders center for a diagnosis and treatment.
What if I'm already driving and I start to feel tired? What should I do?
Take a nap. Naps are beneficial when experiencing drowsiness. Find a safe place (i.e., not the shoulder of the highway) where you can stop, park your car, and sleep for 15 to 20 minutes. A nap longer than 20 minutes can make you groggy for at least 15 minutes after awakening.
If you are planning a long trip, or routinely drive for long durations, identify safe places to stop and nap. If you only have a short distance remaining (e.g., an hour or so of driving), the nap might be enough to revive you. If you still have several hours of driving planned, and you're already feeling tired, it would probably be best to find a bed for the night, get a full night's sleep, and then resume driving.