I have driven drowsy more times than I’d care to admit – returning home from a night out at four in the morning, stumbling to work after hours of restless tossing and turning, or, my personal best, tackling the turnpike after less than two hours of sleep and a six hour drive the day before. In the last instance, I spent a considerable amount of time gulping tea, calling every number in my cell phone and singing along, loudly, with the radio. It was a drive that I survived purely out of luck. I should never have gotten into my car that sleep deprived. But I did.
Sadly, I’m not the only one who drives in such conditions. An estimated 60 percent of Americans have driven drowsy, many of them doing so on a regular basis. They get on the road and within minutes find themselves blinking rapidly, missing exits, rubbing their eyes, daydreaming, yawning and drifting in and out of lanes. If they’re lucky, they get home safely, but many of them aren’t. Annually, at least 100,000 police-reported accidents are the direct result of fatigue. And it’s no wonder. Staying awake for 24 hours creates an impairment equal to that of a blood alcohol level of .1. You are legally drunk at .08.
The best thing to do if you are exhausted is not get behind the wheel. However, sometimes you don’t have a choice. When that happens, what should you do?
Your options are limited: pull over and nap, or funnel caffeine into your body. Both will help, but it turns out that one is better. Researchers recently tested 24 sleep-deprived drivers providing them with coffee one night and making them nap for 30 minutes the next. After their snooze, the drivers drifted between lanes 84 times in one hour. After they were caffeinated, they crossed the line only 27 times. The jolting drug worked far better than the catnap. So if you find yourself nodding off during your next drive, pull into a coffee shop and refuel. If you don’t have time for even that, take a thermos of caffeine with you. Stay caffeinated; stay alert and stay safe.
- Image Source: http://www.sleepfoundation.org
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