Sleepy at The Wheel? How to Combat Driver Fatigue

by | Sep 28, 2023 | Auto


Staying awake and remaining focused while driving is a constant challenge for many motorists. Fatigue can dull reaction times, impair judgment, and increase the likelihood of accidents.

Drivers navigating the streets and highways of Louisiana are well aware that drowsy driving poses serious risks to themselves and others.

In this post, we will discuss the dangers associated with drowsy driving and provide actionable tips for staying alert and awake at the wheel so you can reach your destination quickly and safely.

Statistics on Drowsy Driving Accidents and Fatalities

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gathers data on fatal crashes and assesses traffic-related incidents through police and hospital reports to determine the number of crashes caused by drowsy driving.

In 2017, the NHTSA estimated that among the crashes reported to the police, 91,000 could be attributed to sleepy drivers. These accidents resulted in approximately 50,000 injuries and nearly 800 fatalities.

Furthermore, the NHTSA also estimates that drowsy driving was a contributing factor in 684 car crash-related deaths in 2021.

Additional research indicates that approximately 6,000 fatal collisions involve drowsy driving annually. It is believed that roughly 21% of fatal car accidents involve individuals operating a vehicle while in a drowsy state.

As alarming as these statistics are, they don’t paint the full picture. Traffic safety, sleep science, and public health experts generally agree that these figures fall short of illustrating the full impact and consequences of drowsy driving.

Signs of Driver Fatigue and When to Stop Driving

Recognizing the signs of driver fatigue and knowing when to pull over is crucial for maintaining road safety. Here are some signs that you may be too sleepy to continue driving:

  • Repeated yawning
  • Difficulty preventing your eyes from closing
  • Drifting into sleep
  • Difficulty keeping your head upright
  • Inability to recall driving the past few miles
  • Missing turns and road signs
  • Difficulty maintaining speed
  • Drifting into the shoulder or adjacent lanes

If you experience any of these while driving, it is advisable to get off the road as soon as possible to avoid mishap.

Read also: Coping With Stress When Driving

In-Vehicle Tips to Boost Alertness and Prevent Drowsiness

There are many ways to boost alertness and prevent drowsiness from setting in while driving. Here are some methods you can try:

  • Maintain a comfortable temperature inside the vehicle
  • Play lively and engaging music
  • Engage a travel companion or passenger in conversation
  • Keep the vehicle well-ventilated to ensure a steady flow of fresh air
  • Take short breaks to stretch your legs and walk around
  • Stay hydrated by having water within reach
  • Chew gum or have a healthy snack to stay mentally active
  • Adjust your seat and posture for comfort and attentiveness
  • Drink coffee or energy drinks

Remember that these methods shouldn’t be used as a substitute for insufficient sleep. Most of them are only effective if you have gotten enough sleep before getting behind the wheel.

Relying on coffee or energy drinks can be risky if you haven’t had enough sleep. Caffeinated beverages can mislead you into thinking you can hold off drowsiness indefinitely.

But the effects of these drinks are often only temporary. In most cases, you aren’t as alert as you think and could still slip in and out of consciousness for a few seconds. These short periods are enough for you to veer off the road or collide with another vehicle.

Read also: Distracted Driving and its Dangers

Alternatives to Driving While Sleepy

There will be times when you simply must get off the road or pass control of the steering wheel to someone else. If you are running on very little sleep or the above methods aren’t working, consider the following alternatives:

  • Park your car in a safe location and take a short nap.
  • Switch drivers.
  • Consider rescheduling your trip for another time.

Pulling over to take a short nap can work wonders for rejuvenating your mind and body. Even a 20-minute nap can keep you going for another hour or two, but be aware that you can drift into drowsiness anytime.

Switching drivers can be advantageous during long drives. Having more than one driver in the vehicle allows one to get some sleep while the other does the driving.

Driving always carries some inherent risks. However, those risks increase exponentially when operating a vehicle while fatigued.

While techniques like rolling down the windows or playing upbeat music can temporarily reinvigorate a drowsy driver, nothing substitutes for being well-rested before a trip.

To stay safe on the roads, prioritize getting adequate sleep before driving long distances. If you feel overtired, have a fully alert passenger take the wheel or stop to rest before continuing. Taking these precautions could prevent catastrophic accidents.

Read also: Safety Tips for Driving at Night

Of course, it’s also essential to have proper auto insurance coverage. For quality protection, turn to TSL Insurance Group, a car insurance agency in Baton Rouge, LA, with four other locations across the state in Lafayette, Abbeville, Franklin, and Lutcher.

Our experienced Risk Advisors can explain policy options and provide customized coverage at competitive rates.

With our support, you can drive with greater peace of mind, knowing you and your vehicle are covered. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your insurance needs before your next trip.

Staying safe on the road means both getting adequate rest and having reliable insurance in place!