Driving drowsy proves extremely hazardous

  • Published
  • By Technical Sgt. Shaundana Major
  • 82nd Training Wing Safety Office
Drivers falling asleep at the wheel cause many serious and fatal crashes each year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in recent years there have been 56,000 crashes annually in which the driver cited by police was suffering drowsiness or fatigue. Long before a driver actually becomes drowsy, fatigue can seriously impair driving ability often referred to as "inattention." Fatigue frequently coincides with the onset of darkness, when visibility is greatly reduced and the risk of traffic crashes is high, even for the alert driver.

It is important that trips be planned to avoid long hours of driving that extend into the hours of darkness, particularly after a normal working day. Weariness is likely to be felt more when driving during the normal hours of sleep. To delay the onset of fatigue, the vehicle's interior should be well ventillated, the driver should stop at frequent intervals (every two to three hours) and walk to exercise the limbs to stimulate blood circulation.

Once fatigue has taken hold, nothing can improve a driver's concentration. There is only one thing a driver can do--stop and take a complete break from driving. If there is no co-driver, sleep is the only option.

A driver is becoming drowsy if:
· The eyelids feel heavy
· Hallucinating is occurring
· Traffic situations are misjudged
· Vehicle speeds vary for no apparent reason
· The vehicle wanders to the road shoulder or over the centerline
· There is fidgeting and a feeling of being cramped
· Continual yawning cannot be prevented
· Rash decisions are made due to impatience

Remember, once fatigue has set in, sleep is the only cure.Trips should always be planned to include a good night's sleep before traveling. If possible, start driving early in the day and don't continue late into the night. Chances of crashing are much higher at night. Regular breaks should be taken such as getting  out of the car, exercising and staying in lodging overnight are wise moves. If possible, the driving should be shared.