According to the National Sleep Foundation, Memorial Day weekend is one of the most dangerous times on our roads. One of the reasons is “drowsy” drivers. Some people are more susceptible than others to nodding off behind the wheel. Personally, my own driving concerns me too much to drift off. By “concerns,” of course, I mean my driving scares the spit out of my mouth.
“Too many Americans are too tired to drive. In fact, according to NSF’s recently released 2008 Sleep in America poll, an alarming 36 percent of respondents admit to actually nodding off or falling asleep while driving,” David M. Cloud, NSF’s chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement.
“Hectic weekend getaways may add to the problem as many get on the road at ungodly hours to beat traffic. Not getting enough sleep puts everyone at increased risk for fall-asleep crashes. Understanding crucial warning signs and countermeasures is key to preventing sleep-related crashes,” he added.
If you ever experience any of the following, be sure to pull off of the road asap:
- Heavy eyelids
- You find yourself swerving out of your lane
- You lose touch with your surroundings
- You’re frequently yawning
- Your head keeps nodding forward or falling backward
Never take any risks. Ever! If you won’t be extra cautious for yourself, think of your passengers or other drivers’ safety.
The following are some suggestions that’ll help keep you safe:
- Always get a really good night’s sleep the night before a trip. Don’t stay up late, packing, or finishing up preparations. Do that earlier in the day and aim for at least 7 hours of quality sleep – more if you can get it.
- Give yourself plenty of time. This way, you can stop frequently during the trip to stretch your legs and get your blood circulating.
- Make frequent stops. Stop at least every two hours – the movement will do you a world of good.
- Don’t take any medications that’ll cause drowsiness. Benadryl and other allergy medications knock most people flat on their backs. If you aren’t sure how a medication will affect you, try not to take it until after the trip.
- C-O-F-F-E-E! Caffeine makes a perfect co-pilot for all of us, but for those who fall asleep easily at the wheel, it might just be the perk they need. A word of caution, however, if you aren’t used to high levels of caffeine (the mind boggles), drinking a great deal might give you the jitters. A jittery driver’s just a little bit better than a woozy one! Bottom line: Don’t go ape. Two cups of coffee should keep you alert for about two hours.
- If you can avoid it, don’t travel alone.
- Turn the radio on, turn the radio up, and sing out loud. Louder!
If you’ve taken the precautions but STILL start to feel sloppy-eyed and drowsy, don’t be a hero. Pull off the road and, if you have to, take a nap. Even 15 to 30 minutes can help you feel better and fresher. Just be sure you’re in a safe place. And lock the doors! Great, now I’m mothering you. Next thing you know I’ll be asking if you’re eating enough vegetables lately.
Well, are you?