Despite federal and state educational outreach about the dangers of drowsy driving, not all Illinois drivers have a sufficient awareness of just how dangerous it can be. People who would never think of getting behind the wheel after a few drinks often have no problem driving after a sleepless night, although experts have deemed the effects comparable.
Fatigue can affect the ability to drive safely in a number of ways. Avoiding drowsy driving can make commutes and road trips safer for everyone.
What is the worst that can happen?
The most drastic consequence of high-level fatigue is falling asleep at the wheel and thus losing control of the vehicle. When that happens, the results can be extremely serious.
Not falling asleep does not mean no impairment
Even lesser levels of drowsiness can significantly impair driving ability. Common effects include inability to focus on the road, physical clumsiness, slowness in thinking, delayed reaction times, inability to make a quick judgment and irritability that could escalate into aggressive driving. When on the road, motorists need their physical and mental capabilities in top form, which will not happen if they are drowsy.
Watching out for fatigue
For many people, the effects of drowsiness can begin showing up after sleeping as little as a couple of hours less than a normal eight-hour period. Drinking even minimal amounts of alcohol can amplify sleepiness, as can many commonly prescribed medications and over-the-counter remedies. Medications to avoid before driving include several types of cough and cold remedies, anti-anxiety medications and sleeping aids. All drivers should check the label and speak with pharmacists about possible side effects. Some people experience unusual side effects not on warning labels, so it is best to avoid driving after beginning a new medication or dosage.
Signs of a drowsy driver
If you notice a driver yawning repeatedly, rubbing his or her eyes or nodding off, that person should not be on the road. The safest course of action is to take a different route to avoid being involved in a collision.