Drowsy driving, when it's time to pull over

POSTED: Friday, December 23, 2011 - 9:16am
UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 8:54am

WACO -- Imagine this you're traveling to see family, it's late, you're tired and there are hours of driving ahead of you.

It's a common story during the holidays, but it's dangerous.

"Sleepy driving is distracted driving. If you're sleepy enough it's no different than drunk driving," Dr. Robert Springer, sleep medicine physician said.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, if you start your drive after being awake for 15 hours it's the same as drinking a 6 pack of beer.

Staying awake for 20 hours is equivalent to a dozen beers. So if you're not sure if you're too sleepy to drive...

"If you notice you're hitting the rubble strips, if you notice you're driving is a little erratic, if somebody else is sitting next to you and notices that you're not responding to things on the road, it's time to pull over," Dr. Springer said.

And there are safe places for drivers to pull over.

Texas Department of Transportation tells us many rest stops now include features like free wi-fi and showers, because rest stops aren't just for commercial truck drivers anymore.

"You can just pull up and it's well lit and there's surveillance cameras around, to where you really feel comfortable being there," Andrew Keith, TxDot rest area safety program manager said.

Still think you can make it a few more miles? Think about this:

"If you drive at 60 miles an hour, and you close your eyes just for three seconds, you've gone the length of a football field in an unguided missile," Dr. Springer said. 

Dr. Springer said caffeine will help, but only to an extent. But the best way to prevent drowsy driving?

"At least 7 to 8 hours in bed before you get into the car."

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