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The dangers of drowsy driving

Drivers in North Carolina may be negatively affected by several conditions when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. The use of alcohol or drugs will obviously impair a driver's ability to focus and respond to his or her surroundings. Even extreme emotions may affect concentration while driving. However, according to UCLA Health, another potentially dangerous condition while driving is drowsiness. Driving while sleepy is responsible for an estimated 100,000 accidents annually, and many experts agree that that number does not even encompass all probable cases. Drowsy driving may even result in the same behaviors as drunk driving, but it is not as easily identified.

Several factors contribute to drowsy driving. One of the most obvious is lack of sleep. Average adults require at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis in order to be fully rested, but most do not achieve that goal. Therefore, many people are driving on a regular basis without sufficient sleep. They often do not even realize that the subsequent drowsiness is altering their decision making and response times while driving. The use of alcohol compounds the problems caused by sleepiness as well. The body's natural rhythm of sleep and wake times also plays a role. Once the body establishes a routine, it is hard to break it. Therefore, a person who is driving throughout the night or for an unusually long period of time will most likely be fighting his or her body's own natural craving for the rest it expects at that time.

Shape offers suggestions for drivers who realize their tendency for drowsiness behind the wheel, or those who are anticipating a long road trip. Since many fatigue-induced accidents occur with a single driver, asking a companion to sit in the passenger seat and maintain a conversation may help keep the driver alert. Secondly, establishing healthy sleep habits before the trip is helpful. A solid night's sleep before setting out on the road may provide the energy needed to make the trip safely. If fatigue does set in, taking regular breaks, whether to rest for a brief period or get out of the car and get the blood flowing, may help. Additionally, medications, particularly narcotics and sleeping pills, should be avoided whenever possible. While it should not be used as a substitute for sleep, caffeine has a temporary benefit for drivers wishing to stay awake.

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