Video: Open Your Eyes to Drowsy Driving Dangers

CARS.COM — Sorry, I’m still adjusting to the time change … and recovering from St. Patrick’s Day. Lucky for me — and for anyone else on the road — I don’t need to drive anywhere right now.

Pretty much everyone is aware of the dangers of drunk driving, but did you know that a motorist who’s had less than five hours’ sleep in a 24-hour period has a crash risk comparable to one who’s legally drunk? Or that drowsy driving is blamed in more than 5,000 fatal crashes annually?

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Americans just don’t get enough sleep. According to a recent study, a near-unanimous 97 percent of motorists categorize drowsy driving as completely unacceptable.

Ironic, then, that 1 in 3 also admit that in the past month they’d driving when they could barely keep their eyes open.

Research shows that drivers who get five to six hours of sleep have nearly double the crash risk. Those who get four to five hours quadruple their crash risk. And if you’ve only slept two hours? Well, you’re unfit to be behind the wheel at all.

Symptoms of drowsy driving can include trouble keeping your eyes open; drifting between lanes; difficulty focusing; daydreaming or disconnected thoughts; frequent yawning; forgetting the last few miles; and missing signs or exits.

But more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experience no symptoms before dozing off. Here’s how to avoid being asleep at the wheel:

  • Get at least six hours’ shuteye the night before a long trip.
  • Travel when you’d normally be awake, resisting the urge to drive through the night.
  • Take a break every two hours or 100 miles.
  • Avoid heavy foods and medications that cause drowsiness.

Pull over at a rest stop and nap if you get sleepy — you’d be surprised how refreshing a 10- or 15- minute catnap can be.

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