How to Stay Awake While Driving

Gentleman yawning behind the wheel of a car trying to stay awake while driving.

Learn about the negative effects of driving while drowsy.

Many of us have been there - that moment when your eyes feel achy and you struggle to keep them open while your head feels heavier. Feeling tired can occur at any time throughout the day if you don’t get enough sleep, and behind the wheel, sleepiness can turn deadly. Unfortunately, many accidents happen as a result of drivers falling asleep while on the road. Even if you don’t fall asleep at the wheel, the effects of driving while feeling drowsy can be extremely dangerous.

What Fatigue Does

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, driving while feeling sleepy can cause a person to be less alert and attentive, slow down his or her reaction time and impact a person’s ability to make decisions. In short, many of the same effects from driving while under the influence of alcohol can happen when you feel tired. The CDC noted a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report from 2011, which found that 2.5 percent of fatal crashes and 2 percent of accidents involving injuries are caused by drowsy driving. Other estimates are even higher.

Signs You’re Too Tired to Drive

If you’re about to go for a drive, whether it’s a short or long trip, there are a few signs that you should consider an alternate way to get to your destination or wait until you are no longer sleepy. If you find yourself yawning over and over again or struggling to keep your head up, you could be putting yourself at risk behind the wheel. Other signs include having a hard time keeping your eyes open, or repeatedly rubbing them. While these might seem like small symptoms of fatigue, it can lead to erratic driving and even accidents. Tired drivers may find that they swerve between lanes, miss traffic signs and pass their exits. Additionally, fatigue can make drivers feel more restless or irritable, which can make it tougher to make good decisions about other vehicles around them.

How to Avoid Drowsy Driving

The simplest way to avoid drowsy driving is to get enough sleep during the night. It is recommended that adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night, especially if you are about to head out on a long driving trip. If you feel exhausted behind the wheel, it is important to know your limits and pull over to take a snooze if necessary.