Watch out for drowsy driving this spring

March 9, 2015 10:02 AM

Drivers have plenty of things to think about when they're behind the wheel. Whether they're trying to map out the fastest route to a destination or determine if they need a tire alignment, motorists likely have a lot on their minds.

Unfortunately, one thing that can slip between the cracks is how alert an individual is. Most people just assume because they're awake they're fit to drive, but that's not the case. In fact, being sleep deprived or slightly drowsy could have a major impact in a person's driving habits. 

Daylight saving time brings dangers
Daylight saving time comes twice a year, but in spring, it causes people to lose an hour, most likely from their sleep. Although that may not seem like much, any disruption in sleeping habits could be enough to send people into a funk. CBS Local reported that the time change may even cause drowsy driving. Anyone driving in the early hours may be particularly susceptible, as they have a limited amount of time to adjust to the change. 

This isn't the only time to worry about falling asleep behind the wheel. Anyone could wake up one morning to find that they are less than alert, and it's important to recognize the dangers and possible solutions involved with this practice. 

Warning signs of drowsy driving
Drowsy driving can occur at any time of year. In fact, it's quite prevalent in all months. A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that more than one-third of drivers have fallen asleep while driving at least once, with about 1 in 10 admitting to it in the past year. These motorists are putting themselves and others at risk. The source noted that as much as 21 percent of fatal crashes involve drowsy drivers, so understanding the warning signs is important. 

How do drivers know drowsy driving may be a threat? Pay attention to a few red flags that could indicate tiredness or a lack of alertness. According to the National Sleep Foundation, some of the most common symptoms include frequent blinking and heavy eyelids, disconnected thoughts and daydreaming. Drivers may notice that they don't remember the last few miles, or they could find themselves drifting around their lane. 

People can be wary of drowsy driving before they even sit in the driver's seat. For instance, if they are operating a car during a time when they're normally sleeping, they may be prone to drowsiness. They could also be driving long distances, spending more time working or taking new medications with unknown side effects. Any of these changes could contribute to drowsiness. 

How to avoid it  
Motorists looking for ways to stay safer on the roads should do their part to avoid drowsy driving and the risks that come with it. Of course, this is easier said than done, as some people may not notice that they aren't as focused. Here are a few tips for anyone looking to combat the distraction. 

  • Schedule rest breaks during long road trips. 
  • Drive with a buddy to share the road responsibilities with whenever possible. 
  • Drink caffeine to increase alertness when necessary. 
  • Use a flexible schedule. This can allow time for more sleep should something unexpected pop up during the night. 

While drivers must be aware of their own habits, they also need to make sure their cars are up to par. Having a working radio, for example, can provide loud music that helps motorists stay awake. Investing in regular brake service or similar vehicle maintenance may also prove valuable. That way, should drivers begin nodding off behind the wheel, they can quickly correct the problem and pull over for a much-needed rest. 

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