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Getting Behind the Wheel?
Wake Up!

Sixty percent of adult drivers – about 168 million people – say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. More than one-third – or 103 million people – have actually fallen asleep at the wheel.

In this installment of our driving safety series, I will give you practical tips for staying alert while driving.

Sleep is crucial

The road to a drowsy-free drive starts with a solid night’s sleep. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep to maintain alertness throughout the day.

If you have trouble sleeping, consider a bedtime routine. Try reading a book or planning the next day, for example. Routines tell your body it’s time to start winding down and getting into sleep mode.

Learn the signs

Of course, sleepless nights are not the only factor that drives drowsiness. Stress, depression and long, boring stretches of highway can lull even the best drivers into a state of fatigue. Prepare yourself by learning to recognize the signs that you are getting tired.

If your eyes frequently close or lose focus, you yawn more than normal or you have trouble keeping your head up, you are displaying physical signs of fatigue.

Mental signs include wandering thoughts, memory lapses, restlessness and irritability.

Fatigue can even change your typically good driving behaviors. Watch for signs such as erratic braking, drifting in and out of your lane, tailgating and unnecessary speed variations.

Take action

If you exhibit physical, mental or behavioral signs of fatigue, take action as soon as possible.

If you have a passenger, ask him or her to take over the wheel. If not, find a safe place to pull over and rest. On longer trips, plan rest stops every 100 miles to recharge your body and your mind.

Some drivers turn to caffeinated beverages such as coffee to offset fatigue. If you do, remember that it takes approximately 30 minutes for caffeine to take effect.

And finally, never use naps, caffeine or anything else as a substitute for a good night’s sleep.

More resources

If you exhibit physical, mental or behavioral signs of fatigue, take action as soon as possible.