The National Road Safety Foundation offers tips to stay alert at the wheel.

The National Road Safety Foundation cautions drivers to be especially aware of drowsy driving as daylight saving time begins since the time change can disrupt normal sleep patterns and lead to drowsiness.

“Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drinking and driving,” says Michelle Anderson of The National Road Safety Foundation, a non-profit organization that produces and distributes free driver safety education materials, in a release.

Drowsy driving is a factor in more than 300,000 crashes every year, causing 109,000 injuries and more than $30 billion in losses, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

Studies show nearly two-thirds of motorists have driven while fatigued, and more than a third admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel. The Governors Highway Safety Association estimates more than 83 million sleep-deprived Americans are behind the wheel on a typical day.

Sleep experts say the brain may compensate for fatigue by taking microsleeps for a few seconds or longer. During a three- or four-second microsleep, a person’s eyes may remain open, but the brain is not processing the eyes’ vision signal. 

A car at highway speed can travel the length of a football field during those few seconds, veering out of its lane and into oncoming traffic or off the road. Sleep-induced crashes often cause very serious injuries, since a dozing driver may not take evasive or corrective action as the vehicle leaves its lane.

Drivers should recognize the signs of drowsiness:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Frequent blinking
  • Not remembering the last few miles driven
  • Head nodding
  • Repeated yawning or rubbing eyes
  • Drifting out of lane, tailgating, or going over rumble strips.

“Some commonly held reliefs for drowsiness, like rolling down the windows or blasting the radio, simply don’t work if you are sleep-deprived,” Anderson says in a release. “The best thing is to find a safe spot to pull over and take a break and, if possible, take a 20-minute nap. Have a cup or two of coffee or a caffeinated snack and allow 30 minutes for the caffeine to enter the bloodstream. Don’t drink alcohol or take medications, which can bring on drowsiness.”

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