Drivers are often too stubborn to admit when they might not be able to safely operate a motor vehicle. Whether they have had a few drinks at dinner or have taken strong prescription medicine that clearly warns against operating heavy machinery, drivers believe they can overcome these obstacles and get home safely. Unfortunately, slowed reaction times and blurred perceptions can create catastrophic danger for the other drivers on the road.
One of the most common driving hazards is fatigue. Far too often, drivers attempt to drive home after a long shift at work, a night out with friends or at the tail-end of a bout of anxiety-induced insomnia. Drowsy driving can lead to severe collisions with devastating results. Drivers need to recognize the myths that inform their decisions and make changes to their thinking. Studies from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) highlight four myths that drivers are wise to consider.
- Myth: You can overcome drowsiness with coffee, energy drinks or soda. Although a high dose of caffeine will afford you a short burst of alertness, when it wears off, you’ll be in even worse condition. In fact, one NSF study reports that the introduction of stimulants into those who are sleep deprived will cause them to have “micro sleeps” lasting four or five seconds at a time. While still driving.
- Myth: You are an experienced driver with a record of safety, so you’ll be fine if you’re a little tired. Unfortunately, the primary key to safe driving is alert driving. Drowsy or fatigued drivers will experience a lack of awareness, dulled perceptions and slowed reaction times.
- Myth: You find it impossible to take a nap. Many people find it difficult to nap in a car. If you are tired, you should at least pull over and recline in your seat. Chances are you will fall asleep – even for a short time.
- Myth: You can tell when you’re going to fall asleep. While many people believe this, the transition from fatigue to sleep is largely hidden from our conscious mind. Simply put, one moment you’re awake and the next you’re asleep.
Drivers must recognize when they are ignoring their own safety cues and take steps to protect themselves and the other drivers on the road. Drowsiness only gets worse if left unchecked. If you are too tired to get home safely, use a ridesharing app, call a friend or make other arrangements that don’t risk you falling asleep behind the wheel.