Ok, let’s face it. We’ve all had THAT experience driving when we wonder how we actually got to our destination, not remembering that we actually DROVE those miles.
That is driving while drowsy.
A few weeks ago, my family and I put in an 11 hour road trip to Oklahoma. Four days later, we were back in the car driving those 11 hours home. On the way home, I anxiously wanted to drive and allow my tired husband a chance for some shut-eye. However, minutes after getting behind the wheel, I was yawning.
I was exhausted!
After only a few minutes of driving, I found myself turning the A/C on full blast, pointing the fan vents at my face. I started rubbing my arms and legs and turned the radio up. I couldn’t understand why I was so tired after only ten minutes of driving!
It turns out, I was sleep deprived. Late nights and early mornings on a vacation can wear a person out. Add to that, a different bed, different schedule, and multiple daily activities and you’re begging for a good night sleep. I don’t usually sleep well away from home and me getting behind the wheel clarified that pretty quickly. I pulled off the interstate with my tail between my legs and handed my understanding husband the keys.
While reading up on drowsy driving for this post, I learned an eye-opening fact: a drunk driver usually drives too slow. When involved in an accident, the drunk driver will at least brake and swerve to avoid a collision. The drowsy driver who falls asleep at the wheel, on the other hand, might not even brake or swerve, increasing the chances of a more dangerous and deadly collision. Being sleepy reduces our judgement and coordination. Driving is a complex activity that requires a rested mind and body.
Being that so many Americans take road trips in the summer, I thought it would be a good idea to educate you on the hazards of drowsy driving and tips to recognize it.
Also, it’s important to realize that our body doesn’t only want to sleep at night, but also in the mid afternoon. Our natural circadian rhythms, or body clocks, create the strongest need to sleep around 2:00 – 4:00 am and 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Despite being naturally tired at this time, this feeling is not as intense if we’ve had sufficient sleep. (This is also why we reach for another cup of coffee an hour to two after lunch!)
When in doubt, it’s always better to pull over, get some rest, and resume driving later. If your family is in the car, think about the risks you take with them in the car and a drowsy driver at the wheel. Think about all those other people on the road with you too – we all have loved ones, homes, and just want to get to our destination as well. No one wants to become a statistic.
If you’re looking for more information on drowsy driving, check out DrowsyDriving.org.
Drive safe and drive smart! We’re all counting on each other to do so.