There are many dangers that can contribute to car accidents, but driver fatigue is by far one of the largest. Falling asleep behind the wheel is a serious problem, causing more than 100,000 accidents per year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For most of these fatigue-based crashes, the culprit is monotony on the road. Interstates and high-speed or long, rural highways, for example, are the most frequent areas where drivers fall asleep. Studies done by the NHTSA have proven that driving with fatigue is equally if not more dangerous than driving intoxicated, with very similar results: impaired reflexes, blurred vision, inability to stay focused, etc. The NHTSA has estimated that drivers falling asleep at the wheel cost about $12.5 billion annually in insurance claims and medical costs.
There are several common-sense tips for staying awake, especially when driving long distances, or at night.
- Make sure you’re well rested, beginning your trip only after having at least seven to eight hours of sleep.
- Avoid driving alone on long-distance trips. Passengers can both share in the driving and providing conversation, which can help you stay awake.
- Be an active driver. Avoiding prolonged use of cruise control. Using it in moderation will help you stay more alert.
- Allow yourself ample time to reach your destination so you can take advisably frequent breaks. Try to stop about every two hours, or every 100 miles. Make a point of getting out of the car and walking at least a short distance.
- Driving for long periods at night makes fatigue much more likely. By avoiding traveling during these hours, you escape the glaring dashboard and road lights. That alone will help decrease your risk of highway hypnosis.
- Finally, if you’re losing the battle against fatigue, stop and sleep at a motel or well-guarded rest stop.