Traffic Watch: Fatigue

by Alex Carias

Driving when you're drowsy is almost as dangerous as driving drunk, because you lose the ability to react to sudden situations.

Falling asleep at the wheel occurs most often between midnight and 6:00 a.m. That's when you're body is typically at its lowest energy level. It's important to recognize when you're getting tired behind the wheel, because doing so can lead to an accident.

"A lot of time when they start getting sleepy or what we call fatigued, they'll start swerving. They possibly could run a red light, a stop sign, or run off the road. That's why a lot of times, we get these one car accidents where people run off the road," said DPS Trooper Greg Sanches.

Falling asleep is not spontaneous. Drivers who fall asleep first reach the stage of "fighting off" sleep, when they will try to keep themselves awake. There are several things drivers do when they begin to feel drowsy behind the wheel. That includes turning up the radio or rolling down the window for some fresh air. But all those things are temporary. The best thing to do is stop and take a break.

"What happens a lot of times when people drive like that, they're sitting there and their circulation gets cut off. So, it's good to get out and walk around and refresh yourself before you get back in the vehicle and start driving again," added Sanches.

Here are some more tips to stay alert behind the wheel.

Never drive more than 100 miles, or two hours at a time. Make sure and switch drivers, even if you are not tired. Know the signs of driving fatigue. Talk with passengers or listen to talk radio, and drink stimulating drinks like coffee, tea, or caffeinated sodas.

These tips may not only keep you awake, but could also save your life.