Night shifts can be long and if you were not adequately rested prior to starting your shift, you may find it hard to stay awake on your commute home. People who work night shift are at a very high risk for driving dangerously impaired. Driving while extremely tired has been compared to driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Experts say driving after being awake for 18 hours or more is compared to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05 and driving while being awake for 24 hours or more is compared to having a drug alcohol level of .10. This is significant if you compare the legal blood alcohol limit for safe driving as .08.
Severe drowsy driving accidents most often occur at high speeds on highways and other major roadways. However, drowsy driving accidents can occur slower speeds. Three out of 10 drivers admitted to driving so drowsy they could barely keep their eyes open and it is estimated that upwards of 10% of all vehicle accidents are related to drowsy driving.
These accidents can cause severe injury, death, property damage, economic implications, and criminal charges as severe as vehicular manslaughter.
Take steps to protect yourself and others from unnecessary hardships that may occur from driving while excessively drowsy.
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up, eyes open
- Missed exits or turns and trouble remembering the last few miles on the road
- Hitting rumble strips, drifting from your lane, cars veering away from you
- Difficulty focusing, excessive blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Excessive irritability or restlessness.
8 Ways to Help You Stay ALERT While Driving:
1. Take a Nap before setting Off
As a nurse leaving from your 12 hour shift, you most likely are exhausted and are all ready showing signs of excessive drowsiness. Take a 10-20 minute power nap prior to setting off to give yourself a boost of energy.
2. Eat an apple:
Have a healthy snack, preferably an apple. Apples have 13g of natural sugars and help people stay awake. As their body metabolizes the glucose and vitamins in the apple, it delivers a more sustained level of energy and will keep you from feeling drowsy.
3. Take one shoe off:
Believe it or not this tip can help you stay awake! Taking one shoe off can stimulate many nerve endings in the bottom of your foot. This gives you an added stimulation to help you stay awake! It may seem like a stretch, but it works!
4. Make Yourself a little Uncomfortable:
To keep yourself alert, decrease the level of "comfort" in your car while driving. Open the windows and let the wind blow. The fresh air will awaken your senses. Don't be tempted to recline your seat back but give yourself an upright posture so you are in the best position to see the road. Also, turn the heat off... the warmth from the cars heater can make you even more drowsy and a little chill may be just enough to keep you from nodding off.
5. Laugh a little:
Some like to listen to upbeat music and sing along, others like podcasts to stimulate the brain, my go-to when I'm tired and driving home is listening to the comedy channel on Pandora. The comedians have me laughing the whole way home. Satellite radio has multiple comedy channels to choose from as well.
6. Make a phone Call:
Having a conversation with a friend on your way home (using your Bluetooth device, of course) can keep you from drifting off to dreamland. It's a great time to catch up on your social life because most people are awake and may be available to chat. Have a go-to family or friend who knows your schedule be around when you need help staying awake... it'll give you a good time to talk about your crazy night at work!
7. Find someplace to pull over and rest:
Do you have a relative or friend who lives near your work? Head over and bunk at their house or pull into a rest stop until you're safe to drive.
8. Carpool and share driving responsibilities:
Usually you can find someone who shares a similar commute as you. If you can coordinate carpools then you can help keep each other awake and take turns with driving responsibilities. Plus you will save on gas expenses!
Is night shift schedule right for you? Are you continually feeling like dozing off at the wheel despite your best efforts to stay alert? You can put yourself and others at risk for accidents and harm.
Always remember your safety is the most important, no job or shift is worth risking your life or anyone else's. Talk to your manager about your concerns about drowsy driving and see if they can help you find a better fit for your lifestyle.