The primary responsibility for safe driving will always be on the drivers, no matter how brilliantly roads and cars can be engineered to assist us. Avoiding drowsy driving is our own responsibility, and we can live up to it by keeping ourselves off the roads when we are insufficiently alert and fully alert when we are on the roads.
How do you know when you or a loved one is too tired to drive? If you are the driver, and you are too drowsy to drive, you probably already know the truth but are too stubborn or feel obliged to the drive ahead anyway. It’s denial. Do what is best and get yourself off the road. It will still be there when you are ready for it.
On the other hand, people sometimes are too tired to be very good judges of their own alertness. A person might not recognize the feeling of sleepiness, being too tired to notice anything clearly at all.
In either case, it would be helpful to know a few signs of drowsiness beforehand:
William Dement’s book, The Promise of Sleep, advises looking to the eyes for signs of drowsiness. The heaviness of the eyelids, an inability to keep one’s eyes open, a dryness or irritation in the eyes, and an unfamiliar inability to focus on objects are all signs.
If you stay up all night, your level of impairment of performance at 7 AM is equivalent to legal intoxication. Alcohol and drugs contribute to impairment, but as time goes on they wear off; the sleepiness gets worse.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates there are 100,000 sleep-related crashes in the United States every year, with 1550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries.
A study found drowsiness