Drowsy driving is an increasing concern and can lead to drivers crashing and damaging a vehicle or worse, cause injuries to themselves and others. In addition, drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 21 percent of fatal crashes. For that reason alone, it is important for drivers to know the signs, understand its cognitive effects, and apply safe driving habits to help eliminate driver drowsiness altogether.
Know the Signs
There are common signs of drowsiness that drivers should be taught to watch for: excessive yawning or rubbing of eyes, feeling restless, drifting from lane to lane or hitting a shoulder rumble strip, trouble focusing, and daydreaming.
But, there are also many signs that aren’t as apparent.
For instance, driving alone or on a long, rural road can make drivers feel drowsy and lose their focus. And, driving for extended periods of time without a break can be just as hazardous.
Not planning properly for the end of daylight can also contribute to drowsy drivers. Moreover, those who work more than 60 hours a week need to be especially careful because they increase their risks of getting into an accident.
The Effects of Drowsiness
Not noticing distance traveled or daydreaming are prime examples of the cognitive impact drowsy driving has on a driver.
Driving while drowsy is comparable to driving under the influence of alcohol. The effect of being awake for 18 hours straight is similar to that of someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent.
As with driving while impaired by alcohol, drowsiness makes drivers less attentive, slows reaction time, and affects their ability to make decisions.
If a driver begins to feel drowsy, they should take a break every two hours or about every 100 kilometers and that break should be about 20-30 minutes.