Being tired behind the wheel can have devastating consequences for you, your passengers, and anyone one the roadway around you. Drowsy driving is a problem in the United States, but we do not hear much about it. Today, we want to discuss the implications of drowsy driving and give you some tip on how to prevent the problem in the first place.

The facts of drowsy driving

Let’s pull back for a minute and look at the United States as a whole. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drowsy driving mimics impaired driving and can:

  • Make drivers less able to focus on the road
  • Slow reaction times if you have to brake or steer suddenly
  • Affect a driver’s decision-making ability

The CDC goes on to state that one out of every 25 adults have reported falling asleep while driving in the 30 days prior to their latest survey. Think about that for a minute. People are falling asleep behind the wheel all around us.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy drivers cause thousands of injuries each year in the US, and possibly cause up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year.

Those most likely to drive while they are tired include:

  • Drivers who do not get enough sleep
  • Commercial vehicle drivers (semi-trucks, tow trucks, buses, etc.)
  • Shift workers (long shift & night shifts)
  • Those who have untreated sleep disorders
  • Drivers who use medication that makes them drowsy

How to prevent drowsy driving

Drowsy driving prevention can save your life and the lives of those around you. Many people think that rolling down the windows or cranking up the music will keep them awake, but that will do little to help. Take these steps to prevent a drowsy driving crash:

  • Get a full seven to eight hours of sleep before driving
  • Avoid driving late at night
  • Share driving responsibilities with a passenger on long trips
  • Avoid driving alone
  • Pull over at a rest stop and take a nap if you feel fatigued
  • Arrange for a ride home after a long shift or use a rideshare service
  • Use caffeine for a short-term boost, but don’t rely on it

If you are on any medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription, read the side effects. Many people do not realize that their medications may come with warnings about driving. Some of the most common medications can make us drowsy, including allergy and cold medications.

Alcohol is a system depressant, meaning that it can make us drowsy. Most people know that they should not drive drunk, but we want to let you know that you don’t have to necessarily be drunk for alcohol to make you sleepy. Even one drink can make you drowsy. Narcotics, particularly marijuana and opiates, are also system depressants that can negatively affect your driving.

West Virginian roadways can be dangerous

When we turn to data from the latest reporting year out of West Virginia, we see that there were 268 traffic accident fatalities and 1,381 serious traffic injuries. Traffic crash deaths and injuries have been decreasing in this state over the last ten years, and we hope that trend continues. By following these tips to prevent drowsy driving, you will be contributing to our continued success, and you will save lives.