If you’ve ever driven fatigued or kept on driving even though you were exhausted, you’ll want to stop doing that right now.
A 2016 report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that:
- In a 24-hour period, crash risk for sleep-deprived drivers increased steadily when compared to drivers who slept the recommended seven hours or more.
- Drivers who slept for less than five hours had a crash risk comparable to someone driving impaired.
Sleep vs. Crash Risk
The amount of sleep you get can greatly impact your risk of getting into a crash. These sobering numbers should make you sit up and take notice. If you’ve had:
- Six to seven hours of sleep: your crash risk is 1.3 times higher than normal.
- Five to six hours of sleep: your crash risk is 1.9 times higher than normal.
- Four to five hours of sleep: your crash risk is 4.3 times higher than normal.
- Less than four hours of sleep: your crash risk 11.5 times higher than normal.
Here’s another reality check: Sleepiness cannot be predicted, nor can the ability to stay awake be controlled. Plus, no one knows at what precise moment they will fall asleep.
You can’t miss out on sleep and still expect to be able to safely function behind the wheel. Symptoms of drowsy driving can include having trouble keeping eyes open, drifting from lanes or not remembering the last few kilometres driven. However, research shows more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.
Ten Tips To Stay Alert Behind the Wheel
- Prioritize on getting plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) daily.
- Travel at times when you are normally awake.
- Keep eyes moving about every two seconds.
- Schedule a break about every two hours.
- Use commentary driving technique.
- Keep hydrated.
- Avoid eating a heavy meal prior to driving.
- Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving.
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment.
- Use journey management (don’t plan to work all day and then drive all night).
The bottom line is, fatigue impacts reaction time, judgment and vision, causing people who are very sleepy – even competent drivers – to behave in similar ways to those impaired by alcohol.
The only safe driver here is an alert driver. To stay safe, be proactive and well rested prior to a long trip. And if you feel sleepy, pull over as soon as safely possible and stop driving.