Drowsy is defined as “ready to fall asleep; inducing sleep.”
By the very definition, when you are drowsy, you are going to fall asleep! Drivers are generally poor judges regarding their own level of fatigue and unable to predict when they are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. There are some danger signals to look for:
- Your eyes are burning, feel strained, or are involuntarily going out of focus and closing.
- Your head nods, or you can’t stop yawning.
- You have wandering thoughts and daydreams.
- You’re driving erratically or at abnormal speeds, drifting, tailgating, or missing traffic signs.
- You catch yourself about to nod off.
- You don’t remember the last several miles driven.
- You cross over the rumble strips on the side of the pavement.
- You have micro-sleeps, which are very brief sleep episodes.
These are serious danger signs, and anyone displaying them should not be driving.
Our trip included 12 hours of driving each way. However, like other safety-conscious groups, we paused for a safety moment. Our break was just after dinner because at that time of day we were moving into the risk zone.
Also, before we left, in a Safety PAUSE, we had agreed to take regular breaks to refresh and trade drivers, but now we were on our way home. It was getting dark, and there were six hours ahead of us. We took time to gather all 25 participants from our 5 vans, and we had a Safety PAUSE to consider our top ten ways to prevent drowsy driving:
- When scheduling a trip, each person should “plan” for sleep. This is especially important for the return trip home.
- Start out well rested. Before a trip, the more sleep the better!
(We did slept well the night before, but along the way we asked our relief drivers to nap.)
- Start your trip earlier in the day instead of later. Long-distance driving requires mental and physical alertness.
(We got an early start, as early as our training meeting allowed, but we drove six hours in the dark. The body craves sleep after dark, so we drove what we could during daylight hours.)
- Share the driving. Before leaving designate licensed relief drivers.
- Engage the driver in light conversation with a front seat passenger.
- Keep the temperatures cool and adjust the car temperature so it’s not too comfortable.
- Stay involved with the driving; do not use cruise control.
- Take frequent breaks. Stop and get out of the car at least once every two hours.
- Avoid sedating medications such as cold tablets, antihistamines and/or antidepressants.
- Consume caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks. However, caffeinated drinks take up to 30 minutes to take effect, and have limited effects on people who consume these drinks on a regular basis (such as every day).
(We engaged our drivers during the trip home and stopped for some caffeinated drinks about midway through our trip.)
We all arrived home safely, but not every unit has the same experience. So it begs the question, what do you do about drowsy driving?
Share your best ideas in the comment section below.