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DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF … TIREDNESS

You may not find drowsy driving as dangerous as I do, but you should know that some serious studies have shown that drowsy driving has the same effects in terms of reaction time, ability to take decisions or attention to the road as drunk driving. For example, after 18 hours of activity the attention level is comparable with the one of a tipsy person. This is a serious matter and one should treat it accordingly.

Have you ever arrived home and couldn’t remember anything about the road you’ve just traveled?  Have you ever experienced some kind of memory loss while driving? These are signs that something was not right and you might be too tired to drive. Some other “symptoms” are yawning or blinking frequently, drifting from your lane or hitting a rumble strip. You can even fall asleep for some milliseconds or even second without even being conscious that something wrong happened. And we all know that the consequences can be tragic.

Although these ”symptoms” can affect every driver, there are some categories of drivers who have a predisposition of drowsy driving. They are the commercial driver, the shift workers, persons with sleep disorders or even normal persons who do not get an adequate amount of sleep hours. Also, there are some hours with a higher degree of risk of falling asleep. Usually the risk is higher at your normal sleeping hour but some studies have identified some other dangerous hours. The intervals between 4:00 – 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. have been identified as the most dangerous. Regarding the type of road, people tend to get drowsy on the long and boring highways rather than urban roads. And, considering that most of us drive regularly in towns, the danger of falling asleep is still present on urban roads.

So, what can we do about it? Some say that driving with the windows open or while listening to loud music can help. I say not. If you were tired you could fall asleep regardless of the loud sounds or the cold air. Sometimes even a coffee doesn’t help. The best way to avoid some serious consequences is to stop at the next parking space or even on the side of the road and take a short nap. It can literally save your and other people’s life. Also, before a long trip, make sure you slept enough and you are at your best condition. Remember that you are responsible for your passenger’s safety. Even when driving in town you can fall asleep. To avoid this, try to take every time different roads from home to work in order to avoid the habit and the boredom on the road. Make sure you slept enough and, if you were after a night shift and felt drowsy, consider taking a bus or a taxi home. In special cases, try to drive in a uncomfortable position just to keep your attention at a higher level than usual. But the best method is prevention and the best advice is: take a break or try to avoid driving when feeling drowsy and extremely tired.

Always remember that falling asleep behind the steering wheel is a real danger and you are responsible for your safety, the safety of your passengers and the safety of the other road users. Before driving, make sure that you are refreshed, relaxed and with a clear mind and a high degree of mind concentration.

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