Avoiding drowsy driving as a college student

It's perfectly understandable to be tired after pulling an all-nighter writing papers and cramming for exams. At this point, it may feel like sleep deprivation is just part of your life as a student, but if you drive, this lack of sleep is also increasing your risk of being in a car accident.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, being awake for 18 hours will have the same effect on your body as having a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration. It's also important to note that 55 percent of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers who are younger than 25 years old.

Signs of drowsy driving include frequent blinking, disconnected thoughts, trouble remembering the last few miles driven, feeling irritable and drifting from your lane.

Steps for prevention

The best way to avoid drowsy driving is to plan ahead:

  • Don't skimp on sleep. While this can be difficult as a student, it is best if you can get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. This might mean you won't be able to procrastinate on assignments, but you will likely improve your sleep and your memory.
  • Squeeze in a nap. If you know it's going to be a long day, try to squeeze in a 15- to 20-minute nap between classes. Napping any longer might leave you groggy after waking up.
  • Caffeinate yourself. It takes a half hour for caffeine to enter the blood stream, so if at the end of your day you are feeling fatigued, try to drink two cups of coffee about a half hour before driving. The National Sleep Foundation even suggests drinking the coffee just before taking a 20-minute nap to maximize your energy when you wake up.
  • Find a ride. If you are showing signs that you are too tired to drive, consider finding another ride. City buses can be an inexpensive mode of transportation, and you can even study while you ride. Otherwise consider getting a ride from a friend, a roommate or a ride-share company.

Sleep deprivation doesn't have to be part of your college experience, but if you find yourself in that situation, take the appropriate steps to ensure you are not putting yourself or others on the road at risk.

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