National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

Date: November 9, 2021

Keith Jepsen, Risk Control Consultant

Tips to Stay Alert and Arrive Safely

November 7-14, 2021, is National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week. Did you know that driving more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08%, according to the National Safety Council? As a driver, your number one priority is to get you and your passengers to your destination safely. When driving, stay alert and watch for drivers on the road who aren't.

Symptoms of Driver Fatigue 

Symptoms of driver fatigue are hard to identify, and a driver may not know when he or she is experiencing them. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, pull over to a safe spot and rest, or change drivers.

  • Forgetting the last few miles driven.
  • Hitting a rumble strip or drifting from your lane.
  • Thoughts are wandering and disconnected.
  • Yawning repeatedly.
  • Having difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open.
  • Tailgating or missing traffic signs.
  • Having trouble keeping your head up.
  • Repeatedly pulling your vehicle back into the lane.

How to Spot a Drowsy Driver

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur annually. Drivers must be alert for drowsy drivers on the road. Watch for:

  • Weaving, swerving, drifting, or straddling the centerline.
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • Moving at a very slow speed or responding slowly to traffic signals.
  • Braking erratically or without cause.
  • Driving with headlights off at night.
  • Turning abruptly.
  • Driving with the window down in cold weather.

Rest Breaks

Rest is critical to safe driving. Consider the following restful approaches to restore alertness.

  • Take a break when driving every two hours or 100 miles. Look for a safe, populated rest area.
  • If you pull over for coffee, rest for about 20 minutes while waiting for the caffeine to take effect. The intensity of its impact will depend on your body’s particular reaction to caffeine and the amount consumed.
  • An alternative to caffeine is to take a walk. A brisk 10-minute walk increases energy for two hours.
  • Stretching for 10 minutes is also a good option. Focus on your neck, feet, torso, and lower back. 
  • Make smart snack choices. Choose nuts or fruit and a bottle of water. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks.
  • While pulled over, check messages and return calls and e-mails. Sometimes just changing activities can re-energize you and allow you to focus better on the drive once you're back on the road.

Good Practices

There is no substitute for good sleep. Use these good practices to help improve your sleep quality.

Screens – The blue light from electronic devices may suppress the production of melatonin. This hormone helps you relax and fall asleep. Avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before bed.

Alcohol – Avoid drinking any alcohol before driving. Alcohol affects sleep and can increase drowsiness and impairment.

Caffeine – While caffeine can be a short-term solution, it can disrupt your sleep patterns. Avoid drinking any caffeine six hours before your bedtime.

Prescription or over-the-counter medications – New medications can cause drowsiness. Start any new medications on days off to adjust side effects.

Environment – Keep your bedroom cool and dark to get a good night's sleep.

Drowsy driving kills but is preventable. Keep your employees safe on the road and on the job. For more information on BITCO, consult with a BITCO agent.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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