If you're planning a road trip soon, avoiding drowsy driving could help keep you safe.

In May 2016, a semi-truck veered off the road in Wyoming, tipping onto its side and releasing its cargo: millions of bees.

Bees. Fun in a hive. Bad on a drive. Rouf Bhat/AFP/Getty Images.


A few days later, a similar accident happened in North Carolina, spilling 50,000 pounds of potatoes.

Potatoes. Fun in a stew. Bad on a ... uh ... let me get back to you on this one. Photo from iStock.

In both cases, the crashes happened because the drivers fell asleep at the wheel.

Photo from iStock.

Truck drivers are often under ridiculous pressure to deliver their goods as fast as possible, which can result in people pushing their bodies and chances further than they really should.

It's not just truckers who are sleep deprived, though. The CDC says that 1 in 25 adult drivers have admitted to nodding off at the wheel in the last month.

And That number is based on people who were actually willing to admit to such a thing in a survey — in reality, the number may be higher.

Photo from iStock.

Sleep deprivation is a serious problem. A third of all American adults don't get enough sleep, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says drowsy driving is responsible for about 83,000 crashes, 37,000 injury crashes, and 886 fatal crashes per year on average.

The human body needs sleep. In fact, staying awake for 24 hours straight has the same effect on the body as being drunk.

A study in the 1990s suggested that being awake for 24 hours straight was the equivalent of having a blood alcohol level of 0.10%. That's equivalent to about three to four drinks and well above the legal limit to drive.

Photo from Maya83/Flickr.

In extreme cases, your body will force you to sleep whether you want to or not.

The scariest part? You might not even notice.

Photo from Jim Schwoebel/Wikimedia Commons.

If you become seriously sleep-deprived, your body can override your will to stay awake and will start snatching sleep anywhere it can get it. These episodes, known as microsleep, can last from a few seconds to two minutes and can happen without you even realizing it.

If this happens at your desk, that's bad. If it happens when you're behind the wheel of a car, it can be a catastrophe.

At the end of the day (literally), the best thing is being proactive about getting a good night's sleep.

You may have heard some of these before, but practicing good sleep hygiene often does work.

Especially if you know you have a long car ride coming up, doing things like avoiding caffeine, alcohol, food, and computer or TV screens right before bed; setting a sleep schedule; and getting some exercise can actually save you a lot of exhaustion once you hit the road.

Too much screen usage before bed can disrupt sleep. Photo from iStock.

If you've got time to plan ahead, it's also a good idea to bring a friend along for the ride and take turns napping in the passenger seat.

Photo from iStock.

You can’t always predict why you’ll be on the road for hours at a time, but by respecting how dangerous driving drowsy can be and taking steps to avoid it, we can all stay a bit safer on the road.

If all else fails, just remember that a hotel stay is probably a lot cheaper than a hospital bill.

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Rice University

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