The Myths of Staying Awake at the Wheel
I can tell when I’m falling asleep.
If you’re like most people, you believe you can control your sleep. In a test, nearly four-fifths of people said they could predict when they were about to fall asleep. They were wrong.
The truth is, sleep is not voluntary. If you’re drowsy, you can fall asleep and never even know it. You also cannot tell how long you’ve been asleep. When you’re driving being asleep for even a few seconds can kill you.
Coffee overcomes the effects of drowsiness while driving.
Stimulants are no substiture for sleep. Drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee or cola can help you feel more alert, but the effects last only for a short time. If you are seriously sleep-deprived, even if you drink coffee, you are still likely to have “micro-sleeps” -brief lapses that last 4-5seconds. At 55 mph, that’s more than 100 yards and plenty of time to harm you or someone else.
Young people need less sleep.
Males under 25 are the greatest risk of falling asleep at the wheel. Half of the victims of fatigued- related crashes are drivers under 25. In onestudy, 24 percent of people asked said that they had fallen asleep while driving -32 percent of the men and 13 percent of the women.
I’m a safe driver so it doesn’t matter if I’m sleepy.
The only safe driver is an alert driver. Even the safest drivers become confused and use poor judgement when they are sleepy. In order to be a safe driver you must have your eyes open — and that means staying off the road when you’re sleepy.
Drinking an alcoholic beverage exaggerates the effects of fatigue. To a tired person, one drink can affect you like four or five.
I get plenty of sleep.
Chances are good that you aren’t getting all the sleep you need. If you said “True”, ask yourself “Do I wake up rested?” The average person needs seven or eight hours of sleep a night. If you go to bed late and wake up early to an alarm clock you probably are building up a sleep debt during the week. If you spend eight hours in bed but still feel tired, you may have a disorder preventing you from getting enough sleep. Whatever the cause, avoid driving when you feel drowsy.