Hitting the road can be a nice way to travel. You can leave when you like, choose your route, stop when you want to and avoid airplane food and airport security. Just make sure you get a good night’s sleep before you go.
A 2018 study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety determined that 9.5 percent of all crashes and 10.8 percent of crashes resulting in significant property damage involved drowsiness. And while most drivers recognize fatigue as a threat to their safety, 3 in 10 admit to driving while so tired they could hardly keep their eyes open.
Missing even a couple of hours of sleep can increase your risk of a crash, according to the National Sleep Foundation. So, what’s a road tripper to do?
Sleep to prepare.
An October 2019 report from the NSF concluded that healthy drivers who have slept for two hours or less in the preceding 24 hours are not fit to operate a motor vehicle, and that most drivers who hadn’t slept for at least five hours during the prior 24 hours would be impaired.
Time it right.
Late morning, late afternoon and early evening are when we’re most alert, according to the NSF, with drowsy-driving accidents most likely to happen during early morning and late-night hours. Time your drive for your most wakeful hours, and make sure to take a break every two hours or 100 miles.
Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving.
Mind your meds.
Pain relievers, antihistamines and other medications can make you drowsy and impair your ability to drive. Pay attention to those warnings on the label and time your dosage accordingly.
Sleep expert Michael Breus suggests this trick for getting the most out of a rest stop nap: First, quickly consume your caffeinated beverage of choice. When you finish your last sip, set your alarm and take a 20-minute nap. The caffeine will hit your system in 20-25 minutes.
Seek out sleep-friendly stops.
For multiday trips, try to choose a hotel with rooms away from the street. Bring your own pillows, white-noise options and keep the blackout curtains completely closed. Know when to pull over. If you find yourself repeatedly yawning, unable to keep your eyes open, driving too close to the car in front of you or drifting into other lanes, it’s time to pull off the road and get some rest. You just might save yourself from being one of the 6,400 people who die each year in drowsy driving accidents.
Get more tips on how to avoid drowsy driving at AAA.com/DrowsyDriving.