The Dangers of Driving Drowsy

January 18, 2019

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Drivers know the dangers of drinking and driving. It is a constant message that is repeated over and over. But something just as dangerous but often overlooked is driving drowsy. One in 5 Americans who have taken prescription sleeping aids admit they had gotten behind the wheel within 7 hours after taking the medication, even though he directions on most sleep drugs advise that you not take them unless you can sleep for at least 7 or 8 hours afterward to reduce the possibility of leftover grogginess. Sleep deprivation can impair your driving as severely as alcohol can. According to the National Sleep Foundation, if you’ve been awake for 24 hours, that’s equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of .10 (.08 is considered legally drunk). And last year 9.5% of traffic accidents were caused by sleepy drivers. So it's worth being self-aware of the signs you shouldn't drive because you are too sleepy.  First, strive for adequate sleep. At least 7 hours is what the average adult needs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re getting enough hours of sleep but are still drowsy during the day, ask your doctor whether you might need to be evaluated for a sleep disorder. Even with what looks like sufficient slumber, you could be at risk for nodding off while driving if you’re sleeping poorly or have a health condition that affects the quality of your sleep. Take a look at your medications as many prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medications, some anxiety drugs, muscle relaxers, and, of course, sleep medications—can make you drowsy. Some may interact with other meds to cause fatigue. Your doctor may be able to adjust your regimen—say, by changing the timing of certain doses—to decrease the likelihood that you’ll feel sleepy while driving. As for driving know when it's time to take a break. Even the most alert drivers should take a break about every 2 hours. Clues that you need a break are droopy eyelids, blinking or yawning frequently, drifting out of your lane, not remembering the last few minutes or miles that you’ve been driving and missing a road sign or exit.  Pull over and take a 15- to 20-minute nap in your car. Once awake, wait an additional 5 minutes before hitting the road again, to give yourself a chance to become fully alert.

SOURCE: Consumer Reports

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