While for most it has become second nature, driving is actually a skill that requires a great deal of our mental capacity and cognitive awareness. Paying attention to our surroundings and being defensive is significantly more engaging mentally than being offensive, careless, and barreling straight through to our destinations.
There’s one way other than being under the influence that can threaten a driver’s cognitive functions and put people at risk of an auto collision: Drowsy Driving.
The more innocent form of risky driving, drowsy driving is self explanatory — it’s driving while being incredibly tired as you must endure the task of continuously willing yourself to stay awake. People are under the impression that if you can force yourself to stay awake to binge another episode of a show on Netflix, you can keep yourself awake while driving. The thing is, that although one might be able to keep himself or herself awake for brief spurts of time, drivers eventually succumb to their exhaustion. Even in the meantime, during the moments that drivers can manage to keep themselves awake, a driver will have to operate with a diminished loadout of cognitive abilities including:
- Decreased reaction time
- Blurred vision and impaired depth perception
- Lack of coordination
- Poor concentration
- Higher likelihood of being distracted.
People who find themselves needing to drive while drowsy are often students and overtime workers, truck drivers, new parents who hold a job while caring for the home, and those who enjoy nightlife. Save for the latter, all of the former are impositions where one is obligated to a task for their livelihoods or the lives of others. It’s understandable how one can become influenced to drive drowsy.
To give us that extra boost people have adapted using these techniques below:
Rolling down the windows: The idea is that focusing on the roar of the frenzied wind hitting your face will keep you alert, but the cold night air may make you even more tired.
Coffee and other caffeinated beverages: These will keep you alert temporarily, but you won’t have the awareness or cognitive functions that you can only replenish through sleep.
Blasting the radio: The idea here is that like watching an episode of Netflix, listening to something that keeps your mind engaged will keep you awake, but this can become akin to counting sheep. If you devote your mind too deeply into the music, you will still fall asleep.
All this in mind, the only way to ensure that you can drive at your best is to make sure you get enough sleep each day.