You have probably put yourself in this unfortunate situation before. You worked too late and did not get enough rest the night before. You only have a few more miles left till your turnoff and maybe the cool night air from the rolled down wind can wake you up. You know this route like the back of your hand so what could go wrong?
Bam! The car strikes a pole or even worse another car head on. You have fallen asleep because you started your drive while you were drowsy. This can not only have horrific consequences for you but for others you might have injured slightly or even fatally. Most people only think of getting tired when they are on long car trips but this is most definitely not the case. Know your limits and even if it is a local trip if you are not awake and alert enough to drive, do not drive. A short well known drive home can allow you to "zone out" and fall asleep ending in a crash. Call someone or take a taxi or bus, do whatever it takes so you get home safely without injuring yourself or others if you are too tired to drive home.
Long trips can also be dangerous, probably more so than short trips. When driving on a long distance trip you have goals in mind. You want to make it to a certain stopping point or have a timeline you feel the need to hold tight to. These are not reasons to drive while drowsy.
On long trips if you are tired in the slightest you need to take a look at the big picture and stop the car. If you are a person that only needs a quick cat nap to be refreshed and alert stop at a rest area and nap in the car. If you need a full night of rest the best thing to do is to go check in at a hotel. If you are stopping earlier than you have scheduled you can always make up this time by getting an earlier start the next mornings.
If you are driving while drowsy you might try to talk yourself out of stopping the car by turning the music up louder or putting down the window to get fresh air. These techniques do not work. Yes, you might feel a little more awake with the window down but there is no proof that changing the temperature in your car can help you stay awake. In fact all it seems to do is give you a false sense that you are alert and in control when you are really beginning to doze off at the wheel.
What can be done about drowsy drivers? First thing is that you can take yourself off the road. Just pull over and get yourself off the roadways before harming yourself or others. An even better solution is to not get in the car if you realize that you are too tired to drive. Learn to know your limitations. If you do not know your limitations soon your state might force you to learn them if they impose laws due to studies done on the dangers of driving drowsy.
According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving is the cause of at least 100,000 auto crashes each year. These crashes injure an average of 40,000 people and result in more than 1,550 deaths; the NHTSA suggests that the actual numbers are much higher but some people do not report the accident if it is a single car crash and they are able to drive the vehicle away from the scene.
The NHTSA found that even in smaller states such as Massachusetts there were more than 30,000 drowsy-driving crashes during a 5 year period. Nationwide there was 1.35 million during that same time frame.
Their report notes that the morbidity and mortality associated with drowsy-driving crashes are high, perhaps because of the higher speeds involved, combined with delayed reaction time of the driver. They also found that in comparison with other types of crashes, drowsy-driving crashes more often take place on highways and major roadways with speed limits of 55 to 65 mph and thus causing serious injuries to be sustained.
It does not matter if your drive is short or long if you are tired do not get in your car. A short distance that you know incredible well can mesmerize you and allow your brain to shut down and you to fall asleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation impairs drivers in a manner that is comparable to alcohol, causing lapses in attention and slowing critical reaction times. Know our limitations and learn to not drive when drowsy or fatigued for the safety of you and everyone else on the road.