In March 2012, I read an article in Prevention magazine that made a big impact on me. I can’t find a link to the piece, so I’m going to summarize it.
The story is written by a woman who fell asleep the wheel of her car going 65 mph with her two kids in the backseat. It was the middle of the afternoon. Though she had gotten eight hours of sleep the night before, she hadn’t been getting lots of sleep on a regular basis before that.
She was on a highway I am very familiar with—the Long Island Expressway. They were driving back to NYC from a weekend at the beach—about a two-and-a-half hour drive.
In the past when she felt drowsy while driving, she opened the windows, blasted music, and even slapped herself in the face. On a couple of occasions, she pulled over to take a brief nap. (I could relate to all of these strategies!)
About an hour into the trip, she began to feel drowsy. Then, all of a sudden, her daughters were screaming and her eyes opened to her SUV crashing into another car. Both cars spun out of control but gained enough control pull over to the side of the road while the oncoming traffic avoided them.
She quoted an expert on sleep and fatigue, who explained that not only can you not force yourself to stay awake, but it’s extremely hard to assess how sleepy you are because the sleepiness affects the part of the brain that helps you figure that out.
Therefore, when you feel drowsy while driving, you need to pull over immediately. If you are with someone else, let them drive. If you are alone, get yourself some caffeine and then take a 15 minute nap because it takes time for the caffeine to wake you up.
Over 15% of fatal crashes involve driver fatigue.
I’ve had many experiences in my life when I felt drowsy behind the wheel and after reading that article I became more aware and much quicker to pull over and take turns with my wife.
The woman who wrote this article helped me. I want to help you—your health and life and the health and life of others depend on it. Please don’t drive drowsy.
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