On this blog, we often discuss the dangers associated with distracted driving, of which there are many. But one subject that often gets overlooked in the debate over texting and cellphone usage is the danger that can be posed by exhausted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that fatigued drivers are responsible for approximately 1,500 fatalities and 71,000 injuries every single year. A new report offers tips to motorists hoping to never get involved in a situation where they might fall asleep at the wheel.
One easy but expensive way to curtail the threat is to invest in an automobile that has some sort of lane departure warning system. Automobile manufacturers are putting this technology, which works by vibrating or beeping at the driver when he or she inadvertently exits a lane, into more and more vehicles. However, no driver should rely on technology alone to prevent disaster, and furthermore, not all drivers are ready to buy a new car at the moment.
So what can drivers of automobiles without these systems do? One of the first things to do is understand your limits. If you’re exhausted to the point where you feel like you’re going to fall asleep, simply don’t get behind the wheel. If you’re in the middle of driving, then pull over and indulge in a nap to get some of your energy back. It’s better to be a little late than a lot dead.
Careful planning can also help to keep the threat of falling asleep at bay. Should you know that you’re about to embark on a lengthy trip, don’t schedule it for the end of your workday. Give yourself a break between the two tasks, each of which require you to concentrate and thus drain you of energy faster. Similarly, if you know you’re going to be driving for hours and hours on end, invest in a motel room, even if just for a few hours of sleep. Your driving should also revolve around your regular schedule. If you’re normally in bed between midnight and 8 am, then don’t set out on a trip that will require lots of driving time between those hours.
One of the best things a person can do to prevent a fatigue-related crash is to bring someone along. A passenger will be able to sense whether or not you’re pushing yourself past the brink, and you can switch with that person when you need to rest for awhile.
Finally, consider stopping and giving yourself a short break every hour or two. By getting out of the vehicle and stretching before it becomes imperative to do so, you won’t be overcome as quickly by strain and fatigue.