Every one of us who drives will agree that we often feel drowsy while driving. Especially early morning hours, afternoon commuting or late night being on the wheel. The fact is that drowsy driving is one major cause of various road accidents and fatalities. The fatalities or injuries can increase by many folds if the drowsy driver is a commercial bus driver. It’s not so very long ago when a bus driver went on sleep on wheel near Islamabad Motorway Interchange and took lives of dozens of people. We often hear about such unfortunate events even now & then. Drowsiness is not just associated with late night driving. It can attack you any time of day. So if you think you can’t get drowsy; you are making a big mistake.
We all are not very good in gauging our sleepiness. We over estimate our abilities and all together underestimate our fatigue. If you are driving at night the repeated sounds and sights can bring drowsiness very quickly. The initial phase of sleep, Stage 1, is actually a transitional period between sleep and waking. You can be in Stage 1 sleep and feel as though you’ve been awake. But during this phase, brain waves are slowing, and the body is relaxing in preparation for deeper sleep. Being sleep deprived reduces you driving skill performance and slows reaction times, rather just not even realizing to make a necessary function. If you are NOT well rested and feel drowsy just don’t jump onto seat behind the wheel. Let’s go over some tips and important points which I found very important to remain safe on roads.
Warning signs ? driving while drowsy? Most people cannot tell when they are falling asleep while driving. Here are some signs that should tell a driver to stop and rest.
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids.
- Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts.
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes.
- Trouble keeping your head up.
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder.
- Feeling restless and irritable.
Are You at Risk? Before you drive, check to see if you are
- If you are Sleep-deprived or fatigued (6 hours of sleep or less triples your risk)
- Suffering from sleep loss (insomnia a medical condition), poor quality sleep.
- Driving long distances without proper rest breaks.
- Driving when you would normally be asleep like the night, mid-afternoon.
- Taking sedating medications (antidepressants, cold tablets, antihistamines). Make sure you read warning on medication.
- Addicted to drugs.
- Working more than 60 hours a week (increases your risk by 40%)
- Driving alone or on a long, rural, dark or boring road.
How to Avoid drowsy driving? Before hitting the road, drivers should make sure that
- Get a good nights sleep. While this varies from individual to individual, sleep experts recommend between 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults and 8 1/2-9 1/2 for teenagers.
- Plan to drive long trips with a companion. Passengers can help look for early warning signs of fatigue or switch drivers when needed. Passengers should stay awake to talk to the driver.
- Schedule regular stops, every 100 miles/150KM or two hours.
- Avoid drugs or for that matter any medications (over-the-counter and prescribed) that may impair performance and make you snooze or drowsy. Some medicines interact with fatigue, increasing its effects.
- Consult physicians for diagnosis and treatment if suffer frequent daytime sleepiness, often have difficulty sleeping at night, and/or snore loudly every night.
- During winters, leave one widow little open for fresh air to come as heater in the car can make you feel drowsy. Also point the vents away from your face.
- If any time you are in doubt for a second that you are feeling sleepy. Just pull over at service area or safe place and take some rest or 15 to 20 minutes walk. Its better to be late than never.
According to a survey the risk of having a crash due to drowsy driving is not uniformly distributed across the population. Some numbers are reflected in below slides.
DRIVE SAFE- REMAIN ALERT!