Driving in a tunnel.

Driving drowsy can be as dangerous as driving drunk. [Flickr Creative Commons Photo By JFxie]

Many veteran drivers  — including electric car drivers — believe that they have what it takes to keep their minds focused and alert, even when they’re feeling the tug of exhaustion on their eyelids. However, the truth is that no matter how important it is to stay awake at the wheel, sleep is a biological drive that can overtake the best of us. Rolling down the windows or drinking plenty of coffee isn’t always enough.

While manufacturers like Tesla are beginning to experiment with cars that can do most of the hard work of driving for us, it’s going to be awhile before anyone can safely fall asleep at the wheel. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about the effects that sleeplessness has on your ability to drive.

Sleep Loss and driving proficiency
Drowsy driving is a very serious issue for motorists all around the world. Many people assume that they have no choice but to get into their car when they’re going to be late for work, or they need to get chores done. Unfortunately, getting behind the wheel when you’re tired could be something that puts you, and the people around you at risk.


As a driver, you need to be able to respond quickly to changes in the road and what’s going on around you. At the same time, drowsiness impairs your decision-making skills. When you’re drowsy due to lack of sleep, your reaction times are severely delayed.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation has a similar impact on the body to drinking alcohol. If you’re awake for 18 hours straight or more, you start driving like you have a blood-alcohol level of around 0.05. If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours, then it’s like you have a blood-alcohol level of .10.

Drowsy driving or driver fatigue happens when someone is simply too tired to operate a motor vehicle. It can happen because you have interrupted or inadequate sleep.

Another reason could be because you have a work schedule that messes with your sleep pattern. Some people attempt to stay awake and drive all night so that they can reach their destination faster.

While the effects of drowsy driving vary from one person to another, it’s important to note that anyone who hasn’t had a good night’s sleep simply won’t be able to perform at their best behind the wheel of a car.

Are you Too Drowsy to Drive?
The first step in preventing the dangers of drowsy driving is understanding your symptoms of drowsiness. Always check how fatigued you before you get into and while you are driving your car. Ask yourself:

  • Are you blinking or yawning frequently? Or does your head feel really heavy? Your body could be telling you that you’re too tired to drive.
  • If you’re driving on familiar roads, are you missing traffic signals? Do you have a hard time finding your way?
  • How close are you to the vehicle that’s ahead of you? A lot of drowsy drivers accidentally tailgate the vehicles ahead of them, which can be dangerous if those vehicles suddenly stop.
  • What do you remember about the last few miles you spent on your journey? The more exhausted you are, the less you’ll be able to remember how you got to where you are.
  • Are your thoughts coherent? Is your mind constantly wandering from one place to another, or can you focus on what’s going on? Pay attention to your mental activities and make sure you pull over if you have a hard time thinking clearly
  • Did you miss your last exit, and are you aware of where you are when it comes to other exists and directions that you need to take?
  • Are you losing control of your vehicle at any point? Have you started to swerve, or are you being jarred awake after you’ve inadvertently hit a curb somewhere?

If you answer yes to any of the questions above, then you’ll need to get off the road immediately and get some sleep before you get behind the wheel again according to Sleep.Report.

One Response

  1. Elon Lee

    When this happened to me i wondered if there was a small carbon monoxide leak in the car & if i was overly sensitive to the gas. It would happen in the daytime after plenty of sleep — i started to “rest my eyes” dumb stuff like that — then jolt back to full alertness when id get too close to drifting over a lane. Eating light snacks, sugary dried fruit or candy would keep me awake though. Weird & disheartening. Now i stop & get some gatorade.

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