Driving while fatigued, especially at night, is as deadly as driving under the influence of alcohol. Fatigue reduces your reaction time, judgment, and mental alertness. If you drive this way for too long, then falling asleep at the wheel is sure to follow. It can happen to anyone because no drug is required for this type of impairment. Unlike DUI driving, the antidote for fatigued driving is easy and quick: drinking a cup of coffee while taking a rest break.
However, coffee has its limitations. It won’t work for severe sleep deprivation. If you didn’t get enough sleep during the night previous to your drive, coffee is much less effective. In fact, in extreme cases such as when driving straight through the night and into the following day, you can fall asleep even though you recently drank three or more cups.
In such sleep deprived situations, there is also the danger of micro sleep, in which different areas of the brain briefly sleep or go “offline” and then reawaken. Parts of the brain are essentially flickering on and off. When this happens, you are literally sleeping with your eyes open. If you don’t get into a crash while micro sleeping, you may briefly snap out of it and have no recollection of what you did during the episode.
On the other hand, coffee is highly effective for the non-sleep deprived person who is driving at night. The most effective way of using coffee is not to fight fatigue while driving. Instead, you should pull over at a rest stop, drink a cup of coffee, and immediately take a short nap of about 15 to 20 minutes.
Coffee requires about 20 to 30 minutes to take effect. This means it won’t interfere with your sleep but will “kick in” shortly after your nap. Drinking coffee plus taking a nap is more effective than doing either by itself. Finally, going off coffee for a while, gets rid of any caffeine tolerance you may have built up. This makes the coffee-nap combination even more effective.
If a drowsy motorist injured you in a car accident, contact us at Hogan Injury for a free consultation.