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No Sleep? Don’t Get Behind the Wheel

Driving while tired can cause as many dangerous situations as drunk driving accidents. Driving drunk is considered a danger because drivers lose inhibitions and have slower reaction times. Drivers who do not get adequate sleep are just as dangerous and for the same reasons. Drivers who get too little sleep have slow response times and are liable to make more mistakes. In addition, drivers who have had no sleep or too little sleep can literally fall asleep behind the wheel and plow into another vehicle or pedestrian.

Research by AAA Mid-Atlantic, an advocacy group by drivers, has found that 33% of all drivers admit they have drowsed or fallen asleep behind the wheel. Researchers have found that 1500 people die in the US each year due to car accident caused by sleepy drivers. Sleepy drivers also caused many serious personal injuries, including brain injuries, burn injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other permanent disabilities.

The message is clear: if you are tired, do not get behind the wheel of a car. Take a taxi or take a short nap, but avoid driving. Driving on highways while tired can be especially deadly, since highway hypnosis can set in with monotonous landscapes and few turns. Driving anywhere while drowsy is a bad idea.

Some drivers try to compensate for drowsiness by playing loud music or by using caffeine. Most experts note that such tactics do not work. If you are already alert, fresh cold air or loud music can help you feel more alert, but it will not wake you up if you are sleepy. Caffeine and energy risks are also a risk because their effects eventually wear off, leaving you more tired. If you have had no sleep at all, extra caffeine may not even be enough to keep you awake.

There is no alternative to good sleep. If you know you need to go somewhere, take a power nap first and ensure you get a good night’s rest. If you are driving a long distance, take frequent breaks to stretch your legs and to get some rest. If you get tired or drowsy while driving, pull over and take a nap (leave your flashers on) or find a motel and get a few hours of sleep before continuing on your journey. It is better to arrive late and safe than not to arrive at all.