by: Ursula Nizalowski
It’s always important for the driver of a vehicle to be alert for their own safety and the passengers’. But drivers are only human, and so they’re prone to things like falling asleep while driving. A number of factors can lead to this issue, such as a lack of sleep the night before or driving for long periods of time without taking breaks. Whatever the reason may be, it still presents a dangerous risk for everyone in the vehicle. So here are the signs of a driver who’s starting to fall asleep behind the wheel and tips to avoid falling asleep at the wheel.
Signs You’re Getting Sleepy While Driving
Whether we’re consciously aware that we’re tired while driving or not, our body lets us know in the form of several behaviors. One of these is yawning. This is when the mouth is opened involuntarily allowing air to be breathed into the lungs. Now why we do this when we’re getting tired has no clear answer. But there are many scientific theories on this subject including a 2007 study that claims yawning brings oxygen into our brains so it cools down from using too much energy.
2) Droopy Eyes
It may not seem obvious, but our eyelids have muscles in the upper part. They are the reason our eyes stay open to keep us alert while also allowing the lids to blink so the eyeballs stay moisturized. Now, like any muscle in the body, the eyelids can become fatigued after a while especially when it comes to activities like driving since they require constant focus over long periods of time.
3) Fading Memory
Much like the eyelids, our brains are susceptible to fatigue if we don’t get enough sleep. That’s because sleep allows our brain to retain all the information we’ve collected that day as well as strengthening our memories in general. So when we don’t get enough sleep, we tend to be more forgetful. We may not remember things like how many miles we’ve covered while driving. This can be problematic if we have to get somewhere by a certain time.
Because we’re not as focused on driving when we’re tired, we can end up drifting. Drifting can be dangerous, since it puts the occupants of the vehicle at risk as well as the other drivers in their vehicles nearby. It can also lead to situations like hitting the “rumble strip on the side of the road” according the Center for Disease Control (CDC). This can result in an accident.
5) Not Maintaining Speed
Another sign of fatigue is when the driver is having “Difficulty maintaining proper speed” says Sleep Foundation. Thisis problematic because most vehicles are supposed to maintain a safe distance between each other. So if the driver is nodding off and unintentionally slowing their vehicle down, this could put them at risk along with the other drivers on the road.
Tips to Avoid Falling Asleep at the Wheel
1) Sleep Well
On average, “Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a day, while teens need at least 8 hours” the CDC says. So drivers should plan their schedule so they can get enough sleep the day before they have to drive. That way, the driver will be more awake and prepared to drive their vehicle.
2) Drink Caffeinated Beverages
If the driver isn’t able to get enough sleep, there are alternative methods to staying awake. One popular method is drinking something with caffeine in it. Caffeine stimulates the body to stay more alert unlike alcoholic beverages which have the opposite effect. However, caffeine “isn’t a cure-all” Sleep Foundation warns since it has the downside of making one more sleepy after its energizing effect wears off. Therefore it should only be used when considered absolutely necessary.
3) Take Breaks
When taking a long drive for a vacation or work-related trip, the risk of fatigue is greater. Therefore, make plans to take breaks along the way. Not only will the driver feel more refreshed after each break, but this also makes them less likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.
4) Avoid Driving During Certain Times of the Day
Though people have unique schedules in relation to their jobs, our bodies have a pretty universal schedule when it comes to being energized versus sleepy. For this reason, certain times of the day tend to make us more tired such as the hours between midnight and 6 AM. Avoid driving or at least take breaks during these times if possible.
5) Bring a Companion
One of the simplest solutions to not falling asleep while driving is to have someone with you in the car. That way, they can share driving duties in case the driver starts to fall asleep or needs to rest. Also, a companion helps the driver stay alert while on the road and not accidentally miss important landmarks such an exit to get them to where they need to go.
For any accidents that do happen due to sleep deprivation, though, feel free to contact attorney Rick Wagner.