Editor's note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and was completely revamped and updated in July 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Fatigue while driving can have dangerous consequences for the driver of the vehicle and other vehicles on the road. According to a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers involved in serious accidents were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash.
It's important to keep in mind that driver fatigue isn't limited to long-distance drivers. Anyone can experience drowsiness while behind the wheel, especially if you've been working long hours, perform shift work or physically demanding tasks, or are impacted by sleep apnea.
1. Get plenty of sleep
If you can, try to get at least seven to eight hours of rest the night before a trip. If you're a licensed commercial driver, you will actually be required to follow federal Department of Transportation regulations that govern the hours of rest required before driving.
2. Don't fall for these tricks to stay awake
Contrary to public belief, tricks to keep yourself awake like smoking, turning up the radio, and opening the window are not really lasting cures for drowsiness. While these activities may make you feel more awake for a few moments, they're not going to help you maintain an ongoing level of alertness, and may actually lead to distracted driving.
3. If you can, avoid medication with side-effects of drowsiness
Some of the most common medicines that may make you drowsy are: tranquilizers, sleeping pills, allergy medicines and cold medicines. Most drowsiness-inducing medications do include a warning label indicating that you should not operate vehicles or machinery during use.
4. Don't be afraid to take a nap or a short break if you need to!
If you need to stay fully alert while driving for long period of time, it's best to schedule in regular breaks.
Did you know that a short nap is more effective at restoring energy levels than a cup of coffee? If possible, look for a safe space to pull over possible, you should take a nap when you start feeling drowsy or less alert.
Naps should last a minimum of 10 minutes, but ideally a nap should last up to 45 minutes. Upon waking, give yourself at least 15 minutes to fully recover before getting back on the road.
Receiving driver safety training can help you to develop strategies to improve your driving habits, both on and off the job.