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Tips to Stay Safe Behind the Wheel When Drowsy

Posted On November 3, 2013
November 03, 2013

Ever crammed for a test in college which resulted in staying up all night? Or did your next door neighbor have a Halloween Party with loud partygoers awakening you in the middle of the night? Or have you recently worked a double-shift that left you clocking out with the sun rising? Or does your significant other snore so loud at night that you now have threatened to sleep in another bedroom to get a good night’s sleep? Sound familiar? You are not alone. At some point in time in your life, you will be sleep deprived. And probably to the point that getting behind the wheel of a car would not be safe for you or your fellow drivers on the road.

In 2013, the national health observance of Drowsy Driving Week is November 3rd through the 10th with the goal to raise awareness of this occurrence, which is often attributed to obstructive sleep apnea in addition to other sleeping disorders.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, each year drowsy driving crashes result in at least 1,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries. Similar to drunk and drugged driving, sleep loss or fatigue slows reaction time, makes drivers less attentive and impairs decision-making skills.

Chief executive officer of the National Sleep Foundation David Cloud adds that many people know that texting, drinking and taking sedatives are unsafe practices but few “realize that driving while drowsy is also very dangerous. If you’re so tired that you can hardly keep your eyes open, you could fall asleep for just a few seconds and not realize it. If that happens at 65 miles an hour, you could drive the length of a football field in an unconscious state.”

When a driver suffers from excessive daytime sleepiness—a common symptom of sleep apnea— he or she is 15 times more likely to be involved in a deadly motor vehicle accident. Therefore, before getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, be sure you are well rested or have another licensed driver with you who can take over if you become too tired to drive safely.

The following are some common-sense “don’t” tips can keep you safe on the road:

  • Don’t drive if you are sleep-deprived to the tune of less than 6 hours of sleep.Your risk of falling asleep at the wheel triples.
  • Don’t drive long distances unless you are able to take periodic rest breaks.
  • Don’t drive at a time when you would, on any normal given day, be sleeping.
  • Don’t drive if you have worked more than 60 hours in the week, i.e. your risk increases by 40%


The following are positive drowsy driving prevention tips:

  • Keep to a consistent sleep schedule and get ample rest.
  • If you find yourself getting drowsy while on the road, pull over and take a nap at a rest area or in a well-lit parking area.
  • Proper positioning of your body behind the wheel can help, therefore, drive with head up, shoulders back and a 45-degree angle to the bend in your legs.
  • If you happen to be driving during the night, keeping a light on within your car can help you avoid getting drowsy before it actually occurs. In addition, setting the temperature inside your vehicle cooler than normal can assist in keeping you alert.


If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or would like to find out more, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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