Drunk drivers are not the only road hazard during the holidays. As families in Virginia and throughout the U.S. make their annual treks “home for the holidays,” driver fatigue is another reason you should exercise caution on America’s highways.
The federal government cites a report on commercial truck drivers, who regularly put in long hours behind the wheel, which finds fatigue is a factor in about 13 percent of the accidents in this group. Tips for drivers like you on extended trips to help reduce fatigue follow here.
Try not to drive during the hours your body is naturally tired, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and from midnight to 6 a.m. You will be fighting your body’s internal clock, which fights back even harder when you are on the road for an extended period.
Do not skip meals; maintain your regular eating habits and times as an irregular eating schedule can add to fatigue. Be sure to go to bed on a long-empty stomach, but do not go overboard before turning in either. Both hunger and overeating can lead to sleep problems. Try a light snack before bed.
Take a nap whenever you feel drowsy. Pull into a safe area and close your eyes for at least 10 minutes, even if you are not able to sleep. A 45-minute nap is ideal to help restore your energy. Give yourself another 15 minutes after waking up before driving, just to make sure you are fully awake.
Avoid medicine that makes you drowsy, at least while you are driving. If you do take medication at night, be sure to get your full sleep in so you do not suffer drowsiness while driving.
Take note of any signs of tiredness. Are you yawning a lot or experiencing blurred vision? If so, pull over and nap or make a day of it and turn in early. Tips for staying awake, like singing with the radio or sticking your head out the window, are meant to keep you from having an accident until you can get off the road.
Research shows that staying awake for 18 hours produces the same effect on your driving skills as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent. That is the minimum BAC level for DUI driving and that in itself should be enough to convince you to avoid drowsing and driving at all costs.
This information about drowsy driving is educational in nature; it is not intended as legal advice.