Driver Fatigue - A Serious Problem for Summer Drivers

Driver Fatigue - A Serious Problem for Summer Drivers

The dangers of drinking alcohol before driving are widely known. But far too many people think little of slumping behind the wheel while fatigued, or continuing to drive while feeling drowsy.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans by the National Sleep Foundation found 57 percent had driven while drowsy in the past year and 23 percent had fallen asleep at the wheel. Experts estimate weary motorists who drift off the road and crash cause about 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths nationally each year.

"It is essential to be well-rested and alert before starting any road trip," said Paul Moreno, AAA spokesman. "Drivers need to keep sharp and stay alert especially since a record number of people are traveling this summer."

Symptoms of fatigue include involuntary eye closures, yawning, feeling tired, inability to stay in a lane and inattention. Fatigue can occur at any time of day.

Safety experts say drivers who feel drowsy should take the feeling seriously. Sleep can strike without warning. It only takes a second to shut your eyes, leave your lane and crash. It is typical for drowsy drivers not to realize they are falling asleep.

Many drivers believe they can stay awake by rolling down the window or turning up the radio. But safety experts say these techniques simply don't work. What does work is a good night's sleep before driving and a combination of sleep, exercise and caffeine.

  1. Sleep. If you show signs of sleepiness, stop in a safe area and nap (even 20 minutes will help.)
  2. Exercise. When you wake up, exercise. It helps you become alert more quickly. Running or brisk walking will help.
  3. Caffeine. For a short-term boost, consume some caffeine. But bear in mind caffeine does not decrease a person's need for sleep.

Time of day is an important factor. Drive at times when you would normally be awake. There are two periods of the day when your body is most prone to falling asleep: at night between midnight and 6 a.m., and in the afternoon following lunch.

Established nearly 100 years ago, AAA offers a wide array of automotive, insurance, worldwide travel and financial services. The California State Automobile Association serves nearly 4 million members and is the second largest regional affiliate of the national AAA organization.

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