There are a whole lot of habits you should avoid while driving: smoking, eating, keeping the windows down. Unfortunately, many people do not recognize the dangers that accompany driving with exhausted. But regardless of whether or not we’re aware of it, drowsy driving can impact our — not to mention everybody else’s — safety severely. It’s even been likened to drunk driving in how it affects our brains.
According to a survey done in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia, a little over 4% of drivers admit to being guilty of drowsy driving at some point. The study, released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asked about 147,000 people 18 years of age and older. The results showed that numerous drivers had “nodded off or fallen asleep even for a brief moment while driving during the previous 30 days.” Some states were worse than others, with 6% of Texas drivers admitting to the dangerous practice, while Oregon (where I presently reside) only had 2.5% who stated they would had driven tired. Nevertheless, there’s still a whole lot of sleepy people on the road.
While it may seem like harmless sleepiness that can be “cured” with some caffeine or “worked through” by simply going faster, drowsy driving is very dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2.5% of fatal motor vehicle accidents are caused by the practice, whereas some researchers feel this percentage is significantly higher.
Up until December, I had a night job (in addition to writing during the day) that didn’t get out until 11pm most nights. Given that I had a 30-minute commute each evening and drove a coworker home across town prior, I would often find myself yawning with both upper eyelids slowly drooping towards their bottom counterparts. While I never fell asleep during my drive, I still realized that I was a little less attentive than usual and that it was scary it and of itself. And just last weekend, I was doing a 10-hour driving from Sacramento to Portland and both my travel partner and I found ourselves getting incredibly exhausted. At first, we tried to push through it, but after we didn’t feel any better from a 20-minute nap in a parking lot, I suggested we get a hotel and he agreed. The next day, I felt infinitely better, and was so much more comfortable and alert.
So, when on a long journey, just be safe and make sure you take breaks. Otherwise, you could wind up hurting somebody (or somebody else) as a result of your tired distractedness.