How to combat driving drowsy as the days get shorter

It’s nearly that time of year again – Daylight Saving Time is coming to an end and most states in the U.S. are preparing to fall back an hour on Sunday, November 1st. But while you may be grateful to be gaining an extra hour in your routine, it’s important to remember that shorter days, more darkness and fatigue can be a deadly combination on the roads this time of year.

Most drivers aren’t aware that driving drowsy is a form of impaired driving. Like alcohol or drugs, driving while drowsy affects essential driving abilities such as your reaction time, ability to concentrate, and judgment. Yet nearly half of American drivers admit to regularly driving while feeling fatigued.

Whether you’re planning a long road trip for the holidays or merely encountering more darkness on your weekday commute, adequate sleep and planning are critical for avoiding collisions. Drowsy drivers are three times more likely to get into an accident. Here’s what you can do to stay safe and well-rested behind the wheel this fall:

Prioritize good sleep habits

While the specific amount of sleep you need varies from person to person, most experts recommend that adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Teenagers need even more to feel adequately rested. Remember, a good rule of thumb is that you’re driving sleep-deprived if you get less than six hours of sleep the night before.

Don’t travel alone

If possible, you should try to always bring a companion with you for long drives to help you stay awake and alert on the road. Having a friend with you can also allow you to switch off driving when one of you needs a break or wants to rest. You should also schedule regular stops on the road every two hours or every 100 miles to stretch your legs and wake up.

Double-check your medications

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause fatigue or drowsiness and impair your driving abilities. Additionally, alcohol can interact with medications and increase side effects like drowsiness, so be careful not to mix these two and drive.

Consult with your doctor

If you feel tired all the time, despite getting a healthy amount of sleep, you may have an undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder. Common symptoms of sleep disorders can include snoring loudly or gasping in your sleep, difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently in the middle of the night or falling asleep at unusual times. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about your sleep.

As you adjust to less daylight in your schedule, don’t forget that driving drowsy is incredibly dangerous. Getting plenty of rest will help keep you alert and safe on the roads.


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