words Al Woods
At some point in their lives, many individuals try to stay awake as long as they can. They want to see what happens when they push their bodies to the limit. Maybe you’re doing it to study for a test, or perhaps just for fun.
What you might have noticed if you ever try this is that at some point, you’ll reach a level that is almost like intoxication. Your surroundings will seem eerie or otherworldly. It’s a strange sensation, and most people would agree that it’s not a pleasant one.
It’s one thing to push yourself to stay awake if you’re sitting in your bedroom at home. If you do so, you’re not hurting anyone. It’s a different matter if you decide to hop in the car and drive somewhere after not sleeping for a day or more.
Driver fatigue is potentially quite dangerous. Let’s learn a little more about it, as well as how to prevent it.
How Bad is Driving with No Sleep?
Studies indicate that if you don’t sleep for 18 hours, and then you decide to drive, it is as though you’re at a 0.05 alcohol ingestion level. In other words, if you refrain from sleeping for a while before you drive, you should consider that impaired driving.
If you do this, you could:
- Nod off at the wheel for a moment
- Drive the car off the road
- Strike the vehicle in front of you if the driver hits the brakes suddenly
Any of these could injure or kill you. If there’s anyone in the car with you, they’re in danger too. The same goes for other pedestrians or drivers near your vehicle.
The longer you go without sleep before you drive, the worse it is. If you go for 24 hours with no rest before driving, that is like having a 0.10 blood alcohol level, which is above the legal limit in all fifty states.
This is why there are limits on how long a truck driver can go without sleeping, and other commercial vehicle operators as they might get involved in different types of truck accidents that are fatal. The body needs sleep, and without it, our reflexes and mental acuity both suffer.
What Can You Do to Prevent Driver Fatigue?
It’s always up to you when you decide to drive or do anything else, for that matter. You already know that you shouldn’t drive if you’ve ingested:
- Illegal substances
Drinking or doing drugs are personal choices that each of us makes. When you decide to drive, though, you’re endangering more than just yourself. Sleepless driving is another bad choice, though most people don’t think about it quite the same way.
The most evident answer to the problem of sleepless driving is that if you’re dealing with fatigue, you shouldn’t get behind the wheel. Maybe you just worked a double, and you’ve been up for twenty hours. Your vehicle is in the parking lot, and it’s tempting to drive home.
In that situation, you are much better off getting public transportation. Deciding to take a bus or train home could save your life and other lives as well. You could catch the train or bus back to work later to retrieve your car.
You might also take a ride share back home, like an Uber or Lyft. When you do, you’re making a socially responsible decision.
Let’s say that you’re on a long road trip. You’re pushing to get to your destination that night, but you’ve been awake for close to an entire day.
The best thing to do is to pull over somewhere to take a nap in the backseat. However, failing that, you can also ingest some caffeine to pep you up for the trip’s last leg.
You can get a nice, hot coffee at a gas station or one of the various available energy shots. Those usually have two stimulants, caffeine and taurine.
These are powerful legal drugs. They’ll give you the willpower to get to your destination, so you don’t nod off at the wheel.
Listen to Some Music
If you don’t have caffeine access, you can also crank up the tunes. Listening to the radio can clear the cobwebs if you’re experiencing fatigue, and you have just a short drive home. Listening and singing along to the oldies station might be what it takes to get you back safely.
You could also listen to satellite radio or some of your favorites if you have Bluetooth connectivity. Just about every new vehicle has it now. Music engages you, and it can keep you awake till you can get home and sink into your mattress.
Open the Window
You can also roll down the car’s windows to get some air moving. A stiff, cold breeze should refresh you if you’re experiencing fatigue.
Even if it’s raining, you can still crack the driver’s side window. It’s surely not the most pleasant thing, but if you’re driving in the car with the windows up and the heat on, you might drift off. That could mean disaster if you close your eyes for a second.
Get Someone Else to Drive You
If you know you haven’t slept and need to get somewhere, you can also ask someone else for a ride. It’s just the same as getting a designated driver if you know you’re over the legal alcohol limit.
You can do this is there’s no public transportation and no ride share vehicle available. A friend, family member, or coworker might do this for you if you ask nicely.
Not enough people think about fatigued driving dangers. If you’re working a ton of overtime hours right now, you might drive around with little sleep all the time.
Every time you do that, it’s perilous. You might be fine nine times out of ten. It’s that tenth time that could cause a traffic accident or something worse.
If you avoid intoxicated driving, that’s great, but fatigued driving awareness matters just as much. Remember that the next time you face this scenario.