How To Stay Awake While Driving

Jan 27, 2012

By Staff Writer State Farm™ Employee

The lack of a good night's rest can do more than put you in a sour mood. It can also impair your driving, leading to potentially disastrous consequences. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 28 percent of adults in the U.S. say they've nodded off at the wheel in the past year.

Those most at risk for driving while drowsy include:

  • New and young drivers, especially men
  • Shift workers
  • People who sleep less than eight hours each night

Collisions resulting from drowsiness cause approximately 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Besides accidents, sleepiness can lead to higher stress levels, slower reaction times and faster, more aggressive driving.

To help reduce your chances of falling asleep behind the wheel:

  • Get enough sleep at night. Drivers who sleep for only six to seven hours each night are twice as likely to get in an accident as those who get at least eight hours. It's even worse for those who sleep five hours or less—they are four times more likely to be involved in a collision.
  • Pull over. If you feel bored, restless, are having a hard time concentrating or have tired eyes, you need a break. Pull over to a rest stop, stretch, take a short nap or switch drivers. Take a break every two hours.
  • Adjust your car's settings. Stay more alert by keeping the temperature cool, playing loud, high-energy music, turning off the cruise control and placing your seat back in an upright position.
  • Wear sunglasses during the day. Bright sunlight can cause you to squint, making your eyes tired.
  • Watch what you eat and drink. Caffeine and sugary products don't ensure mental alertness. Instead, opt for water or juice, and high-protein foods rather than heavier fare.
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