Asleep at the Wheel — How to Stay Awake and Alive

Riddle: Which one is worse? Falling asleep while defusing a time bomb or, getting behind the wheel of your car when you’re dog-tired and can‘t stay awake? Answer: They’re both the same. Because driving while exhausted and drowsy-eyed makes you, for all intents and purposes, a rolling time-bomb on a hazardous road where havoc… possible injury, and even death await – not to mention, higher car insurance rates.

Next time you get behind the wheel with little sleep, or start to fade after a long day at work, or get drowsy while on a long road trip…think about this. If you fall asleep at the wheel, you are potentially as lethal to yourself and others as an intoxicated driver looking to get busted for a DUI. And, in the end, the results can be virtually alike… tragic.

Driver fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel while driving has been recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a major cause of car crashes. According to the NHTSA there may be approximately 100,000 automobile accidents due to driver fatigue each year. Of those, an estimated 1,550 result in deaths, with as many as 71,000 injuries, causing over $12.5 billion in damages.

When you consider that an estimated 10-20% of fatal accidents and 5-10% of all accidents may be related to sleepy or tired drivers, you can understand the plight facing car insurance companies. Accidents occur under the best of conditions, but when you throw in the usual DUI caused accident and the DWA (Driving While Asleep) car crash, it becomes obvious that the two combine for a substantial amount of accidents on a yearly basis.

Here’s more food for thought. If you’re beginning to snooze behind the wheel, your reaction times are dramatically slower to virtually non-existent. Even if when awake you think of yourself a poor man’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel, guess what? If you nod off at 70 mph and run into something or someone, providing you survive, you’re nothing more than a poor man’s “sleeping” Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel…and your insurance company will now look at you in a whole new light with a whole new higher annual premium.

It’s common for all of us at least once. We justify continuing on with self-assuring statements such as: “We’re almost there“. “It’s not that far“. “I can make it“. The point is, it’s not really worth it. Don’t push it. Every mile you drive beyond your limit you’re playing a dangerous game of Russian Roulette with a two-ton bullet, putting your life, your passengers, or innocent other drivers at risk.

What should you do to avoid falling asleep while driving?

  1. Take a short nap prior to leaving and pull over every 2 hours.
  2. Share the driving if not alone. There is no shame in riding shotgun to catch a few z’s.
  3. If alone, load up on caffeine (lots of it)
  4. Avoid all-nighters.

What should you do if you start falling asleep behind the wheel?

  1. If you start and cannot stop yawning, stop driving.
  2. If you start weaving and cannot maintain a steady speed, stop driving.
  3. If you are “trying” to stay awake and it‘s a losing battle, stop driving.

What if all else fails?

  1. You’re too tired to drive. Stop and give your body what nature intended for it to have. No…not a gallon of coffee…sleep. Accept it. It’s for your health and your safety, not to mention keeping your car insurance premiums low.