We are constantly reminded not to drink and drive, but let’s not forget that tiredness and drowsiness have similar effects as consuming alcohol: they compromise driving ability, affect response times, and hinder important decision-making skills on the roads.
Operating a vehicle when sleepy or tired can be detrimental to both the driver as well as other road users. Being drowsy significantly increases the risk of road accidents even if you don’t fall asleep. When you’re dozing off intermittently while driving, you run the risk of colliding with another vehicle or running off the road. The damage and risk increases when you’re travelling at high speeds. In Singapore, drowsy driving is deemed grossly negligent behaviour, and convicted motorists face up to two years in jail and/or a fine.
There are a few factors that play a part in drowsy driving. In a busy society like ours, we are constantly on the move, either doing something or rushing somewhere. This continuous activity can take a toll on us, and it’s important to recognise that you need time away to recuperate and rest. Sleep deprivation produces adverse biological effects that the body finds hard to overcome: it makes you less able to pay attention on the road, slows your reaction time should you need to brake or steer suddenly, and affects your ability to make good and rational decisions.
If you suffer from sleep disorders, get a medical professional to treat you. Some sleep disorders, like sleep apnoea, cause obstructive sleep, or narcolepsy, which is a condition where sufferers have sudden uncontrollable bouts of sleep at random moments of the day, leading to accidents. If you find yourself constantly nodding off without knowing why, it’s your responsibility to seek treatment and refrain from driving.
If you on medication that can cause drowsiness, or are on sleep aids including prescription drugs and dietary supplements that may cause grogginess the following morning, time your intake so that you have sufficient time to recover from the drowsy state before you take to the wheel. Not everyone gets high or drunk after a few drinks, but drinking alcohol can also induce sleepiness, and that’s just as risky in a driving situation.
SPOT THE SIGNS
Know when you have to stop driving and take a rest. You should be aware of these telltale signs. Perhaps you find yourself constantly yawning, your eyelids are getting heavy, or your vision is getting blurry. You cannot seem to recall the last few moments of your journey, and may have missed a road sign or an exit. You keep drifting out of your lane or cars are constantly honking at you. At this point, it should be noted that you’ve been very lucky that nothing serious has happened to you or other road users. Heed these signs, slow down, and try to get off the road quickly and safely. Pull over to a parking spot and grab a few minutes of rest. Get a drink of water or refresh yourself with a wet wipe or tissue. If you still feel sleepy after all that, then it is best to park your car and grab a taxi instead.
Needless to say, the obvious thing to do is to get enough sleep. Stick to a planned number of driving trips and don’t overstretch yourself. If possible, break down your trips into smaller and more manageable segments. Learn to listen to your body and be attuned to when it feels the drowsiest, like maybe during the afternoon, so you can avoid or at least reduce your need to drive then. If you’ve had a heavy meal, you may need to sleep it off before doing any driving. Only take medication that causes drowsiness if you have the time to sleep it off.
AAS ACADEMY’S SAFE DRIVING WORKSHOP
Keen to be a safer driver? There’s more to it than just staying awake and alert while driving. Sign up for our workshop, each of which will cover two modules. More information is available here.