Have you ever pulled an “all-nighter” cramming for a test, had a neighbor’s barking dog keep you up all night or pulled a double shift at work? Each of us has likely encountered situations similar to these and found it difficult to stay awake the next day due to fatigue and drowsiness. Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while fatigued and drowsy can have dangerous, and sometimes deadly, consequences.
The Florida Legislature designated the first week of September each year as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week to educate the public on the dangers of driving while drowsy and to honor the memory of 8-year-old Ronshay Dugans. Ronshay was killed in 2008 when her school bus was hit by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel.
Do not drive when you are tired. It is risky to drive drowsy because fatigue (being sleepy) can:
- slow down your thought process and reaction time;
- affect your judgment and vision;
- impair your sense and abilities;
- cause micro-sleeping (“nodding off”) or falling completely asleep.
The two main causes of drowsy driving are lack of quality/quantity of sleep and driving at times of the day when you would normally be sleeping. Young males, shift workers, commercial drivers and people with untreated sleep disorders or with short-term or chronic sleep deprivation are at an increased risk for drowsy driving crashes.
Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) drivers will be issued a Uniform Commercial Citation if the driver is found to be an ill or fatigued operator at the time of a crash. Commercial vehicle drivers must comply with all federal and state regulations regarding sleep to ensure maximum safety on the roads.
Drowsy Driving Prevention Tips
Similar to drunk and drugged driving, sleep loss or fatigue slows reaction time, makes drivers less attentive and impairs decision-making skills. It is always important to rest before driving, but there are other measures you can take to prevent drowsy driving:
- Get enough sleep before you drive. If you are having difficulty focusing, frequent blinking or heavy eyelids, pull over in a safe place to rest before continuing to drive.
- On long trips take a break every 100 miles or two hours. Allow plenty of time to get to your final destination.
- Use the “buddy system” so you can change drivers when needed.
- If you have been up for 24 hours or more, do not drive. It just isn’t safe for you and all others on the road. Get a good night’s sleep before you travel.
- You can drink caffeine to increase alertness; two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours.
- Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
- Read the warning labels on your medications. Do not drive after taking medications that cause drowsiness, and always drive sober.
For more information, including warning signs that a driver needs to pull over and rest, visit http://drowsydriving.org.
- Drowsy Driving Logo
- Drowsy Driving Prevention Week Social Media
- Drowsy Driving Poster
- 2015 Crashes Involving Drowsy Driving by County
- Drowsy Driving Crashes by Vehicle Type
- Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Hours-of-Service Violations
- Rest Area Map for Florida from FDOT