Drowsy driving has become a major public health issue and, along with distracted drivers and drunk drivers, motorists who are overtired are among the most dangerous people on the roads. If you drive when you are drowsy, you are just as impaired as someone who is drunk, and if you close your eyes for even a second and start to nod off, you could cause a serious and even deadly auto accident.
Despite the serious risks of drowsy driving, many people get behind the wheel when they are too tired to be safe and many more continue to drive even if they find themselves dozing off. Auto accident attorneys in Atlanta know that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows as many as 20 percent of car accidents each year happen because of drowsy drivers. These crashes could be prevented if drivers made sure that they get enough sleep on a regular basis and didn't get behind the wheel unless they were awake and alert.
Tips to Stay Safe and Avoid Drowsy Driving Accidents
With so many people constantly on the go, it should come as no surprise that as many as a third of all Americans are chronically sleep deprived. If you are one of the many who are not getting enough sleep, the Fiscal Times has some advice to get the rest you need so you can stay healthier and avoid being a danger behind the wheel. Tips for staying safe include:
- Reduce exposure to light at night. When you see bright lights, like those on smartphones and tablets, this sends a signal to your brain that it is daytime and time to be awake. Many people look at their electronics right before bed, making it harder to fall asleep and get a good nights rest.
- Skip the caffeine. Studies have shown that if you drink caffeine even as long as six hours before you go to bed, this will have a disruptive impact on your sleep patterns.
- Avoid spicy foods and alcohol at nighttime. Having a drink or two may make it easier for you to fall asleep at first, but alcohol is high in sugar and as your body begins to metabolize that sugar, you are likely to wake up during the night.
- Exercise early. Exercise is good for sleep since when you body feels that you have worked hard, it is more likely to have a good rest. However, when you exercise too vigorously at night, this can keep you awake.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Staying up late or sleeping in late on weekends can adversely effect your sleep patterns. Catching up on sleep over the weekends can make sense, but you should do it by taking short naps rather than by changing your bedtime schedule.
- Don't assume sleeping pills are the right solution. Participants of studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health only fell asleep about 20 minutes sooner when given a sleeping pill as compared with those who were given a placebo. Taking a sleeping pill could also result in a feeling of still being drowsy the next morning, and could put you at risk of an accident if you get behind the wheel when you are still affected by the pill.
If you are having serious sleep issues and these steps don't help, you can consider a sleep study. It is important to do something, though, as driving while fatigued is a risk you don't want to take.