Do not let driver fatigue disrupt your summer travel plans

  • Published
  • By Bob Brock
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
Summer is quickly approaching. Though, it may not seem like it here in Colorado, this means many of us will be spending extra time behind the wheel as we drive to vacation destinations, recreational activities, and social events. Driving with little sleep erodes our ability to operate a vehicle safely as the miles add up. Though driving fatigued may seem harmless, it can have very devastating consequences. Do not let yourself become just another statistic in the drowsy or fatigued driving category.

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 90,000 police- reported crashes involved drowsy drivers. Those accidents resulted in more than 800 deaths. In 2017, drowsy driving was responsible for taking the lives of 795 people across the country. These numbers are merely estimates, but the actual numbers are believed to be much higher. Some studies even suggest the number of deaths due to drowsy or fatigued driving could be upward of 5,000. Fortunately, there are ways to combat driver fatigue that will assist you in arriving at your destination safe and sound.

First and most importantly, get plenty of rest before you need to drive anywhere. Sleep deprivation can creep up on a person, so getting proper sleep is essential. While we all require different amounts of sleep, most adults require seven to nine hours per night.

Second, avoid drinking alcohol the night prior to your trip. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it disrupts your rapid eye movement sleep, which is necessary for mental restoration.

Recognize the signs of driver fatigue: difficulty focusing, blinking more than normal, excessive yawning, heavy eyelids, slower reaction time, and driving speeds creep up or down. If you have any of these symptoms or signs, do not continue driving.

Do not drive between midnight and 6 a.m. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most drowsy driving crashes occur between these times.

Do not take medications that may make you drowsy before you drive.

Do not drink and drive. Buzzed driving is drunk driving.

You may have noticed the consumption of coffee or energy drinks was not mentioned. While those drinks may help you feel more alert, the effects are short term. After drinking coffee or energy drinks, it is still possible to have brief losses of consciousness, which can last up to five seconds. That means at 65 mph you would have traveled 480 feet down the road unaware. That is more than enough time and distance to become another statistic.

Using these strategies, or ones you develop on your own, may be the difference between having a summertime travel experience that is terrific or having one that is tragic. Be safe and smart while driving and remember that driver fatigue is a hazard that you should protect yourself against every time you are behind the wheel, summer or not.