Tips to Avoid Driving Drowsy

Sleeping and driving don't mix. When you are behind the wheel of a car, being sleepy is dangerous. Sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, and impairs judgment, just like drugs or alcohol.

And, just like drugs and alcohol, sleepiness can contribute to a collision. Most people know how dangerous drinking and driving is - driving drowsy can be just as fatal as driving drunk.

Driving, especially for long distances, reveals your true level of sleepiness. At the start of a trip excitement makes a driver feel alert, but the alertness wears off once the trip is underway. Here are some suggestions to avoid driving tired:

  • Start any trip by getting enough sleep the night before. Plan to drive during times of day when you are normally awake, and stay overnight rather than traveling straight through.
  • Avoid driving during your body's "down time." Take a mid-afternoon break and find a place to sleep between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • Talk with your passenger if you have someone else in the car. A passenger can also let you know when you are showing signs of sleepiness. If your passenger thinks you are getting sleepy, let someone else drive or pull over and sleep. A nap could save your life and the lives of others.
  • Make sure both people in the front of the car are awake. A driver who needs rest should go to the back seat, buckle up, and sleep.
  • Schedule a break every two hours or every 100 miles. Stop sooner if you show any danger signs of sleepiness. If you're getting a AAA or CAA Triptik, ask the counselor to indicate appropriate stops. During your break take a nap, stretch, take a walk, and get some exercise before getting back into the car.

Here are a few ways to tell if you're about to fall asleep. Even if you are not aware of being drowsy, if you have a sleep debt you are still at risk. If you experience any of these danger signs, take them as a warning that you could fall asleep without meaning to.

  • Your eyes close or go out of focus by themselves.
  • You have trouble keeping your head up.
  • You can't stop yawning.
  • You have wandering, disconnected thoughts.
  • You don't remember driving the last few miles.
  • You drift between lanes, tailgate, or miss traffic signs.
  • You keep jerking the car back into the lane.
  • You have drifted off the road and narrowly missed crashing.

If you have even one of these symptoms, you may be in danger of falling asleep. Pull off the road and take a nap.

Information taken from Wake Up! published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety