Man sleeps in a car - copyright:  Yulia Gapeenko

When at Risk?

Ever wondered why the graduated driver-licensing program does not allow you to drive late at night? Well, one important reason is the danger of falling asleep behind the wheel.

Young people between 16 and 29 are the most likely to be involved in fall-asleep crashes. The subgroup at greatest risk comprised the brightest, most energetic, and hardest working teens.

Be aware of and try reducing the lifestyle-related risks if you know you are going to drive.

Before Your Long Trip

Before a long trip you should get adequate sleep before getting behind the wheel. Even napping just before a long drive may help make up for sleep loss in the short term.

Avoid drinking alcohol the night before your trip. The combination of alcohol and sleepiness makes you a very dangerous driver, even at low levels of alcohol use.

Eat lightly. A heavy meal before you start can make you drowsy.

Don’t drive late at night when you normally sleep. Most crashes occur between midnight and 6 a.m.

Taking drugs or any kind of pep pills should also be avoided.

On the Road

Take regular breaks. Experts recommend a break every two hours or every 100 miles.

Drink coffee if you feel tired. Caffeine, even in low doses, significantly improves alertness in sleepy people.

While on the road, don’t stare on the road right in front of your vehicle. Keep alert by shifting your eyes and scan the surroundings.

Open a window to get fresh air.

Watch for Signs of Sleepiness

Don’t fight sleepiness. Fresh air and music on the radio are effective ways to keep you alert when fatigue kicks in.

If you show signs of fatigue or falling asleep, pull off the road and stop. Taking a break for a short nap (about 15 to 20 minutes) can save your life.