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EDITORIAL: Tired? Don't get behind the wheel

EDITORIAL: Tired? Don't get behind the wheel

Use Daylight Saving Time changeover to remind yourself not to drive while drowsy

It’ll probably hit you most when you drag your tired butt up for work on Monday morning.

Daylight Saving Time.

It’s the first major rite of spring, in which we deliberately throw our bodies a curve ball by moving the clock ahead, cruelly taking away a precious hour of sleep.

People concerned with our safety use the twice-annual clock switcheroo to encourage us to change the batteries in our smoke alarms.

But a safety reminder more directly related to the changing of the time itself is the opportunity it gives us to focus on the deadly practice of drowsy driving.

The time change puts motorists in immediate danger of nodding off or simply driving while not as alert. But the problem persists all year round, and it’s the cause of thousands of auto accidents every year, many of them fatal.

According to SleepFoundation.org, being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. That’s close to the 0.08% threshold for legal intoxication.

If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive, it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of 0.10%, according to the website.

Both drowsy driving and drunk driving make it hard to pay attention to the road, and can slow your decision-making, just as if you’re driving drunk.

Drowsy drivers often nod off suddenly at full speed, and they aren’t always alert enough to brake or swerve to avoid a crash.

Particularly vulnerable to drowsy driving are young drivers, shift workers, commercial drivers and long-haul truckers, people with undiagnosed or untreated disorders and business travelers, according to the National Sleep Foundation. 

The solution to drowsy driving is pretty obvious, but not always easy. Don’t drive when you’re tired. Get enough sleep before you get behind the wheel.

But if you do get tired when you’re driving, have the wherewithal to recognize it and take action right away. 

If you find yourself behind the wheel yawning repeatedly, struggling to keep your eyes open or stay focused on the road, you’ve begun forgetting the last few miles you’ve driven, you find yourself tailgating other drivers, missing traffic signals, or weaving in and out of your lane, it’s time to get off the road for a break.

If you think gulping down a coffee will get you there, don’t count on it for the long run. It can take up to 30 minutes for caffeine to take affect so that you’re alert enough to drive, and the jolt you get can wear off quickly.

If you’re driving a long way, pull off or switch drivers ever 100 miles or every two hours. 

The most common times for drowsy driving are 1 to 4 p.m. in the afternoon and 2 to 6 a.m. at night. If you can, don’t get behind the wheel at these times if you’re in any way vulnerable to being too tired to drive.

If you’re taking prescription drugs or over-the-counter cold or sleep medication, avoid getting behind the wheel. 

And of course, avoid alcohol at all times.

This weekend, you’re going to be extra tired because of the time change.

Use this milestone to remind yourself to stay alert behind the wheel all year long.

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