Signs of Drowsiness in the Car

Is there a good way to tell if you are too drowsy to drive? Consider these as you drive:

  1. Are you yawning or blinking frequently? Or is your head suddenly feeling really heavy? Your body is letting you know it’s tired.
  2. If you are driving on familiar roads, have you missed any traffic signals? Often as you get more tired, your mind just focuses on controlling the car and you may blow right through the traffic signal or sign.
  3. How close are you to the vehicle in front of you? Often as you get drowsy you will unintentionally begin tailgating the vehicle in front of you.
  4. What do you remember about the last few miles of your drive? As your body gets more and more exhausted, you will likely remember less and less of what you are passing.
  5. Pay attention to your thoughts. Are they coherent? Or is your mind wandering all over the place?sleeping driver
  6. Can you focus on your drive? The more tired you get, the harder it will be for your mind to stay focused on what you are doing and where you are going.
  7. Did you miss your exit?
  8. Are you starting to lose control of the car? Has your vehicle started swerving and possibly you were jarred awake again once you crossed the rumble strips.

At-Risk Groups

Younger drivers, business travelers, shift workers or employees coming off a long shift, and those with undiagnosed sleeping disorders are at the greatest risk for drowsy driving. Further, people who take medicines that make them drowsy, especially if they recently started the medicine and are unfamiliar with it

Young adults are particularly prone to drowsy driving for multiple reasons. For one, they get drowsier than middle-aged people. The mechanism for falling asleep is unbroken in young adults which is why they have less of a problem with insomnia. When a 20-year old is sleepy, he or she is really sleepy in a way that older people rarely get. This is a sign of a healthy functioning sleep regulation mechanism, but it makes it harder for young adults to resist falling asleep, even when it is inappropriate to do so.

Another reason is lack of experience and self-knowledge (knowing your limitations). Too many younger drivers think they can do anything and pop right back up afterwards. Often these younger people stay up late at night and miss out on a lot of sleep as they try to enjoy nightlife and still make it to school or work on time in the morning. Eventually that lack of sleep will catch up with them.

Business travelers are more likely to be involved in a drowsy driving crash because their circadian cycle is thrown off. A business traveler is more likely to be suffering jet lag, which can make him or her fatigued, and more susceptible to falling asleep at the wheel.

Shift workers and long shift employees are more likely to drive while drowsy because they are asking their bodies and brains to work add odd times. Even people who have worked the late shift for years don’t always adjust to a life out of balance with daylight. Likewise, those who work very long hours have already pushed their body more than most workers, white collar or blue collar, and are likely fatigued before they even get behind the wheel.

Some drivers may be suffering from sleep disorders and not even know it. Millions of people have sleep disorders. Any disorder or illness that causes excessive sleepiness can be dangerous if driving is involved. Sleep apnea can be dangerous by itself and the daytime sleepiness it produces can result in drowsy driving. Other people have undiagnosed narcolepsy.


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