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Drowsy driving is too dangerous to risk

How tired are you?

If you're like most Americans, you're probably more tired than you should be. The distractions and demands of modern life make it almost impossible for a lot of people to get enough sleep -- which is a big problem for drivers.

Drowsy driving is actually considered as dangerous as drunk driving. Sleep deprivation and intoxication affect the mind and body in similar ways. Both can affect your reaction times, your ability to focus and the clarity of your decisions.

How do you know if you're driving drowsy? Here are some signals that you need to take a break:

  • You find your thoughts wandering
  • Your eyes are tearing up or you're blinking often
  • You're missing exits or can't recall the last few miles
  • You've caught yourself drifting into the next lane or onto the rumble strip
  • You're yawning and need to stretch

Obviously, the best thing you can do before hitting the road is to hit the sack -- seven or eight hours of sleep before you drive is the best preventive medicine.

What if that's not an option, however? What if you're worried about getting sleepy on a long trip? Here are some tips that can help you avoid a car accident due to drowsy driving:

  • If you can find a safe location, pull over and give yourself a break. Get out of the car and walk around.
  • Plan for an overnight stay halfway through your trip.
  • Use the "buddy system" and take a partner to share the driving. Sleep when it isn't your turn to drive.
  • Avoid alcohol. Even a single beer at lunch or dinner can make it harder to stay awake.
  • Watch your medication. Even over-the-counter allergy pills can cause drowsiness in some people.
  • Watch your internal clock. If you're a day person, avoid night travel. Night people, of course, should skip early-morning drives.
  • Use caffeine. Keep a steady supply of caffeinated beverages on hand for the trip.

Always remember that a delay in reaching your destination is better than suffering injuries in a crash. Take your time -- and, by all means, take a nap if you need it.

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