Sometimes a job that requires a long commute is the best fit for your situation. However, a long commute can get old fast. You may get up early in the morning to beat traffic and get home late after you finish working. When you get home, you may delay going to bed so you can complete your responsibilities around your home or try to unwind before doing it all again the next day.
Although driving can be a safe mode of transportation most of the time, your extra time on the road may increase your chance of eventually being involved in a traffic collision. If a long stretch of your commute occurs on rural roads, you may be especially susceptible to drowsy driving crashes.
Is driving when tired really that dangerous?
Drowsy driving can include falling asleep at the wheel, but it doesn’t always. According to the National Sleep Foundation, driving when you are tired can have similar effects on the body as drinking alcohol. For example, exhaustion and intoxication both slow your reaction times and make it difficult to pay attention to the road.
Although drowsy driving collisions can occur at any time of day or any location, some similarities between drowsy driving collisions have been identified. Most drowsy driving collisions occur between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the late afternoon, which are both times when your body’s internal clock expects you to be sleeping. Most drowsy driving collisions also occur on rural roads and highways where a driver’s journey can be especially monotonous.
How can I minimize my risk of drowsy driving?
The best way to prevent drowsy driving is to get enough sleep every night. Most adults need seven or eight hours of sleep to be fully rested, so you may need to tweak your weeknight routine to make your commute safer.
However, sometimes unexpected events occur. Maybe you were up late caring for a sick child or dealing with a family emergency. If you know you are running on a little less sleep than usual, it may be helpful to be able to identify when you are too tired to drive safely.
Some signs to look for include:
- Difficulty focusing
- Heavy eyelids
- Frequent yawning
- Bobbing your head
- Blinking often
You may also be too tired to drive if, during your commute, you catch yourself hitting the rumble strip, missing exits or forgetting the last few miles you drove. If you are on the road when you realize you are too tired to drive, it may be wise to pull over in a safe place where you can consume some caffeine and take a 20-minute nap. Caffeine and a short nap can give you the boost you need to safely get home, but it is not a long-term solution.
Trying to get enough sleep and being able to identify when you are too tired to drive can help reduce some of the risks associated with your long commute. Being well-rested for your commute may not make the drive more enjoyable, but it can help protect you and others who share the road.