Mr. Know-It-All Explains

Driver Fatigue & Commuting Safety: The Danger Signals and Tips To Boost Alertness

Anxious to get home after a long shift, you get in your car and start driving. A few minutes into your drive, you start yawning and soon your eyelids are heavy and you’re fighting back sleep. You pinch yourself or maybe roll down the window--anything to keep you awake so you can make it home. Does this sound familiar?

Unfortunately, driver fatigue is becoming all too familiar for too many drivers. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes annually involve drowsiness and/or fatigue as a principal causal factor. In fact, drowsiness is thought to be one of the leading causes of all vehicle crashes.

Here Mr. Know-It-All will discuss some of the warning signals of driver fatigue and provide some tips to improve driver alertness. 

Danger Signals for Drowsy Drivers 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, here are some of the main signs that a driver should pull over and rest:

  • Your eyes close or go out of focus involuntarily.
  • You have trouble keeping your head up.
  • You can't stop yawning.
  • You have wandering, disconnected thoughts.
  • You don't remember driving the last few miles.
  • You drift between lanes, tailgate or miss traffic signs.
  • You keep jerking the car back into the lane.

Tips to Boost Alertness

Get good sleep on a regular basis. Just like nothing satisfies hunger like food, nothing quenches fatigue like getting sleep. So make an effort every single day to get good, uninterrupted sleep.

Feeling tired while driving, take a quick nap. Even a short 15-20 minute nap has been proven to be very beneficial in increasing alertness. To use the food analogy again, it’s like having a snack when you’re hungry. It can temporarily delay your sleepiness.

Boost alertness by stimulating your senses. For example, turn on the radio and sing along to an upbeat song. Or try rolling down the window to let in some fresh air. As warm environments are more conducive to sleep, try to keep the temperature cool in your car.

Try carpooling. A very good way to prevent situations in which driver fatigue may arise is to carpool. By being able to split driving duties with another person, you can allow the alert person to drive. Furthermore, by talking to each other and making sure the other person is all right, you can boost attentiveness. Also, think about all the money on gas you save if you carpool with other people!

Get a Cab or Uber/Lyft. If you’re too tired to drive and a co-worker can’t drive you home, call a cab or get an Uber/Lyft. While a cab might be expensive, it can offer the best solution if you need to get home quickly. Remember, it’s well worth spending a few dollars to prevent an accident.

Don’t underestimate the power of sleepiness. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they can “will” themselves to stay awake. This is a dangerous and often fatal assumption. Sleep can overcome anybody. If you experience any of the danger signals of drowsy driving, the best thing you can do is pull over and rest. Looking for more safety tips, subscribe to our Working Nights Newsletter.

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