Why Longer Car Rides Result in Drowsier Drivers

Western New York Personal Injury Law Blog

Why Longer Car Rides Result in Drowsier Drivers

New York is one of the most populous states in the country – and also has some of the heaviest traffic. Consequently, chances are high that New York residents will spend a lot of time behind the wheel. Whether it’s rush-hour traffic or just a casual drive, being on the road for extended stretches makes drivers more likely to fall asleep.

Drowsy driving is a form of distracted driving. Approximately 10% of all motor vehicle crashes involve driver drowsiness. While some of these crashes are the result of the driver not getting enough sleep prior, recent research suggests that there are other factors at play as well.

It’s all in the vibrations.

A recent study by professor Stephen Robinson of RMIT University in Melbourne tested the impact a car’s vibrations have on a driver. After having a number of people drive in a virtual simulator for an hour while testing different vibrational patterns, he found that those driving at low frequencies can slowly put someone to sleep. The majority of cars and trucks tend to operate at these low frequencies.

The study concluded that when exposed to these low-frequency vibrations, it takes just 15 minutes for the driver to experience drowsiness. In half an hour, the driver has a serious risk of losing their concentration and alertness. Even healthy and well-rested drivers can still fall asleep during a long car ride.

How to prevent it

The National Safety Council still recommends getting the right amount of sleep before going behind the wheel. Even though it does not completely negate the risk of sleeping while driving, it significantly decreases it. They found that going more than 20 hours without sleep is equivalent to drunk driving.

It’s also important for drivers to employ other tactics to stay alert at the wheel, for instance:

  • Listening to a podcast or audio book
  • Rolling down the window or turning on the AC to get some fresh, cool air
  • Pulling over and walking around every two hours
  • Driving with someone else, if possible
  • Drinking two cups of a caffeinated beverage

Drivers need to be especially careful during rush hour times. Commuters heading to work are tired after just getting out of bed, and drivers just leaving work are exhausted after a long day. It’s crucial for drivers to be aware of the risks of drowsy driving and use any necessary strategies to keep themselves awake and defensive while driving – to help ensure they get home safely.


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