You might think driving when you’re tired is just something you just need to suck up and push through to get to your destination on time.What you might not know is that driving while you’re tired can impair you just as much as driving drunk. In fact, one Australian study showed that being awake for 18 hours produced impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and after 24 hours without sleep it was .10 . (For context, .08 is considered legally drunk.) Yet lots of us still get behind the wheel when we’re exhausted, putting our lives and others’ in danger.
In an effort to reduce the number of drowsiness-induced accidents, the National Sleep Foundation has declared November 2 to 9 Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. By educating people about the real risks of drowsy driving, they hope to help reduce the number of car wrecks and deaths from this easily preventable cause.
It’s difficult to attribute crashes to sleepiness, the Foundation notes. But conservative estimates from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guess that 100,000 police-reported crashes result from driver fatigue each year, resulting in approximately 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. Yikes.
To help you stay bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while you’re behind the wheel, the Foundation suggests:
- Get adequate sleep. Most adults need 7-9 hours each night to maintain alertness.
- Schedule regular breaks. You need one stop every 100 miles or 2 hours.
- Travel with a buddy, if possible. You can split up driving time, and you’ll have someone to talk to.
- Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about your meds.
If you start to get heavy eyelids when on the road, stop driving. It’s always better to get to your destination late than not at all.