You probably already know about the dangers of driving drunk or under the influence of controlled substances. You may also know about the perils of distracted driving. However, you may not be aware of the dangers of driving fatigued. Nevertheless, driving while drowsy can affect your ability to make good decisions while behind the wheel or pay attention to the road. It can also slow down your reaction time just as driving while intoxicated does.

The estimated number of deaths resulting from drowsy driving is approximately 800 per year. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that estimate may actually be too low and that drowsy driving may result in closer to 6,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Preventing drowsy driving

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent drowsy driving:

  • Medications that can cause drowsiness typically have warnings about driving while taking them. Be sure you read the instructions on the package and ask your pharmacist if you have questions.
  • Discuss symptoms and treatment of any sleep disorders you may have with your doctor.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule that affords you at least seven hours of sleep per night.

Recognizing signs of drowsy driving

Another important step to prevent drowsy driving is recognizing the warning signs when you are behind the wheel. If you experience any of the warning signs while driving, you should change drivers, if possible, or else pull over to the side of the road and get some rest.

Early signs of drowsiness while driving include missing your exit, frequent blinking or yawning or an inability to remember the last few miles you have driven. As you become more fatigued, you may find yourself hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road or drifting out of your lane. Take these warning signs particularly seriously, as they could cause you to drive off the road altogether or hit an oncoming vehicle.