November is Drowsy Driving Prevention Month, which makes a lot of sense — it’s when the time change happens, and the days get shorter. But schedules remain the same, and tiredness behind the wheel can be dangerous or even fatal.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2017, about 50,000 people were injured in sleep-related vehicle accidents in the U.S. Many happened to a single driver with no passengers in the vehicle, and on rural roads: in other words, where it was quiet, and where there was less of a need to stay awake and aware of other people and vehicles.
Substances that can affect your behavior, like alcohol and medication, can also contribute to driving while drowsy. It’s almost a cliché to drink a coffee or down an energy drink before getting behind the wheel for a long drive. The NHTSA suggests that while those drinks can perk you up for a little while, it’s not a long-term solution.
There’s only one true way to avoid drowsy driving: getting enough sleep at night. Medical experts recommendadults get 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep; teens should get an hour or two more. Of course, that isn’t always easy to do.
If you can, avoid driving at times when humans often feel the most tired (midnight to 6:00 a.m. and in the mid- to late afternoon — you probably have a pretty good idea of when you get tired during your average day).
Don’t drive on your own for a long trip; traveling with at least another person means you can trade off on driving duties, with one of you sleeping while the other one drives. If you are driving alone, do what you can to take breaks: a night in a motel or even a brief nap in a safe, out-of-the-way place can help you recover from the effects of sleepiness.
In 2015, federal researchers began an ongoing campaign to study and combat drowsy driving. Part of the project is raising awareness of the risks and encouraging employers to reduce the risks of drowsy driving employees. Another part is to promote rumble strips on roadways throughout the U.S. as a reminder of sleepiness while driving.
Studies also show there are five major groups of drivers who are more likely to drive while drowsy (though of course everyone who doesn’t get enough sleep can be at risk):
If you’re in any of those groups, do what you can to get enough rest before a drive. You may follow all the rules of the road and never drink or text while driving. But if you’re not aware of your surroundings when you’re driving, you can put people at risk.
The Mutual Understanding blog and Hastings Mutual videos are made available for educational purposes only. The information referred to is not an official company statement, corporate policy, or offer of coverage. Refer to your insurance policy for specific coverage. There is no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of any information found by following any link on this site. Please contact your local independent insurance agent with further questions and for more details on any insurance policy-related information you read here.
© 2021 Hastings Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.
You can earn discounts for what’s already part of your vehicle — not the empty drive-thru coffee cup, though.
GAP coverage: is it really worth it?
You’ve heard the rumor that a red car costs more. Is it true?
Hastings Mutual Insurance Company
404 E. Woodlawn Ave.
Hastings, MI 49058
8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (EST)