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How can I Prevent Falling Asleep at the Wheel?

Dana Hinders
Updated May 23, 2024
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In today’s busy world, it’s hard to get a good night's rest. However, driver fatigue is a serious problem. According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, almost 20 percent of all drivers admit to having fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point. At any given time, you can expect that almost half of all motorists are driving while drowsy.

Recognizing the signs of driver fatigue is a key part of knowing how to prevent falling asleep at the wheel. The signs of driver fatigue can vary from person to person, but may include yawning, increased irritability, sore eyes, and a general feeling of restlessness. Missing road signs, tailgating, having difficulty staying in the correct lane, hitting a shoulder rumble strip, and slow reactions to the behavior of other drivers are also serious warning signs of driver fatigue.

Driver fatigue is somewhat related to the amount of time spent driving, which is the reason why experts recommend taking a short break after an hour or two on the road. However, studies of how to prevent falling asleep at the wheel have revealed that most fatigue-related crashes happen during the late night and early morning hours or in the early afternoon when the body’s natural circadian rhythms start to drop. To stay safe, it is best to limit your driving during these times as much as possible.

Drowsiness is a common side effect of many over-the-counter and prescription medications. To avoid falling asleep at the wheel, it’s important to understand how your medicine may affect you. Ask your doctor for advice on the potential side effects of any new medication and avoid driving until you are certain how you will react to a particular medicine.

Many people believe that consuming coffee or other amounts of caffeinated beverages is the best way to prevent falling asleep at the wheel. It’s true that a small amount of caffeine can help temporarily increase alertness, but too much coffee or soda can make you nervous and jittery. Studies have shown that tricks such as playing loud music and opening your vehicle windows will not increase alertness at all. A better way to prevent falling asleep at the wheel is to pull over and take a short nap. Even resting for just 15 to 20 minutes will have a dramatic impact on your ability to drive safely.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the WikiMotors team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.
Discussion Comments
By Ivan83 — On Jun 12, 2012

I did once fall asleep at the wheel and I crashed my car in to someone elses. There were not any major injuries luckily but that was a very sobering experience to say the least. If things had gone just a little bit differently I could have killed myself or someone else.

I have tried many different things to keep myself awake since them from drinking coffee to singing loudly. And I have concluded that when you are tired there is really no way to wake yourself back up. The only responsible thing to do is to pull your car over and get some sleep.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jun 11, 2012

The only way to absolutely keep yourself from falling asleep behind the wheel is to not drive when you are tired or to get rides when you are sleepy. But most of us do not have this luxury.

I drive a lot for my job and there are definitely times when I find myself nodding off behind the wheel. When that happens I usually turn up the radio and slap myself on my inner thigh as hard and as fast as I can. The pain wakes you up a little and the fast movement gets your blood flowing. I know that it is not scientific, but it seems to work for me.

By lamaestra — On Apr 26, 2008

I get so scared about people falling asleep at the wheel - myself included! I wish people would just pull over. I am not at all averse to taking a short nap before driving again.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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