Falling Asleep at the Wheel: Why and How to Prevent

Falling asleep at the wheel is as scary as it sounds. It’s the reason for causing more than hundreds of thousands of car crashes throughout the world each year. In fact, a great number of drivers experience nodding off or falling asleep one or two times in their driving career, especially during long journeys.

There are some specific reasons why people experience drowsiness at the time of driving. You have to shun them and follow some rules to avoid falling asleep at the wheel.

The Reasons for Drowsy Driving

The foremost reasons are lack of rest and sleep deprivation. Most of the drivers think that they can make it despite not getting proper rest or sleep between long shifts. When you are drowsy, your senses don’t function at their full capacity and your driving skills are impaired, which could lead to disastrous consequences.

drowsy driving
Sleep deprivation is the main reason of drowsy driving. (photo source: Getty Images)

According to the U.S. National Sleep Foundation, the people who are more under the risk of drowsy driving than others are:

  • Shift workers
  • New drivers
  • Teenagers
  • People who get less than eight hours of sleep at night
  • Drivers who have sleep disorders
  • People who have to drive long hours such as truck drivers and delivery drivers

Consuming alcohol, drugs, and taking medications that cause drowsiness as a side-effect are also the reasons for falling asleep at the wheel. If you want to stay alert while driving, avoid bad habits and try to rest properly before the journey.

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How to Prevent Falling Asleep at the Wheel

The first rule of staying safe is not to hit the road when you are too tired. Some other things that you can follow are:

Avoid Rush

Many drivers drive at night without stopping for breaks for making the most of the holiday weekend. But, there’s a limit to the amount of stress and labor that your body can take without taking rest or breaks. So, don’t cut the resting time to rush to the destination.

Use Caffeine

Caffeine helps in keeping you awake and your mind alert. So, drinking one or two cups of coffee whenever you feel sleepy will help to avoid falling asleep at the wheel. Keep caffeinated mints and gum in the vehicle in case you can’t buy beverages on the way.

falling asleep at the wheel
Caffeine can help in keeping you awake. (photo source: Shutterstock)

Take Breaks

Taking a break at every two to three hours or 100 miles will give you a window to relax and refresh your mind. Just park the vehicle somewhere and enjoy a snack or listen to a song. Start the journey after 15 to 20 minutes.

Take a Nap

It’s the last resort if nothing mentioned above works. A 20-minute of nap will keep you alert for the next couple of hours. So, if you are sleep deprived and caffeine seems to have no effect anymore, park somewhere safe and take a short nap.

Use the Buddy System

It’s helpful when you are set for a very long journey. Hit the road with someone else so that you can take turns. It’s the best way to avoid falling asleep at the wheel because you can take rest when the other person is driving.