Asleep at the Wheel

From Issue: 
Vol LI, No. 2, May 2007

If you are over-tired, you are impaired. Please don't drive. Drowsy drivers put themselves and other road users at risk. Like alcohol, fatigue affects our ability to drive by slowing reaction time, decreasing awareness and impairing judgment. But if you are overtired, your driving ability may well be impaired.

An alarming 20 percent of Canadians admit to falling asleep at the wheel at least once over the last year. Studies also suggest fatigue is a factor in about 15 percent of motor vehicle collisions, resulting in about 400 deaths and 2,100 serious injuries every year.

Tips to Avoid Drowsy Driving

1) Drive only when rested.
Don't take the wheel if you feel fatigued, no matter when or where you are driving. Have some sleep or exercise first, avoid or delay the trip, or let a rested person drive.

2) Keep your mind alert.
Listen to talk shows or up-tempo music. Change position frequently, keeping your head up and shoulders back. Actively watch road signs and traffic.

3) Find a safe place to stop.
Every couple of hours pull off the road for a break, exercise and fresh air. When possible, spend the night at a hotel or stop in a safe place to take a nap.

4) Be careful about what you eat and drink.
Coffee, sugar or other stimulants may wake you up physically but they do not ensure mental alertness. Drink water, juice or soft drinks low in sugar and caffeine.

5) Drive defensively.
Be prepared to prevent collisions in spite of the actions of others.