Drowsy driving occurs most frequently in drivers aged 18-30 because they are the demographic who is most likely to be deprived of sleep when going on longer road trips. Men are more likely than women to drive drowsy, as are adults with children when compared to their childless counterparts. In America, an estimated 37% of people have actually fallen asleep at the wheel and 4% of these people have had an collision or near collision because of it. But even with these shocking figures, it’s important to keep in mind that since there is no test for drowsiness (like how a breathalyzer can test blood alcohol concentration) these numbers are merely scratching the surface.
In Canada, the numbers for drowsy driving are likely quite similar to those of our American neighbours. A study conducted at Queen’s University showed the young adults who have been awake for 18.5 hours make the same types of driving mistakes that someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 would make. Drowsy drivers are liable to travel at erratic speeds, change lanes suddenly, have slowed reaction times and are more likely to drive off the road.
What many people don’t realize is that drowsy driving is often as dangerous as drunk driving since the risk for collision is actually quite similar. One of the problems with drowsy driving is that it doesn’t have the same negative stigma attached to it that drunk driving does. Most people recognize that drunk driving should be avoided but many young adults view drowsy driving as something that’s often unavoidable.
If you’re feeling sleepy, chances are you shouldn’t be on the road. Here are some often overlooked signs that you need to stop for rest:
- Difficulty focusing on the road
- Wandering thoughts
- Heavy head or eyelids and frequently blinking
- Missing exit signs, traffic lights or stop signs
- Drifting lanes, tailgating other cars or driving on the rumble bumps on the side of the road
How to Avoid Drowsy Driving
If you find yourself in a situation where you are driving drowsy, there are a few things you can do to decrease your odds of hurting yourself or others:
- Find a safe place to pull over and have a 20-30 minute power nap
- Take breaks every two hours
- Drink a coffee during your breaks – since it can take around 30 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, this is good time to do it
- Only drive during the times when you’re normally awake – 2am to 5am is the period of time when drowsy driving collisions are highest
- Postpone driving until you’ve had a solid 7-8 hours of rest
At DriveWise Driving Schools, our priority is your safety. Please contact us to learn more about our driving programs and how you can decrease your risk of driving drowsy.