Holiday drivers need ample rest

As the holidays approach, students driving long distances to visit family and friends need to make sure they stay awake while on the road.

Harvey Lockhart, a 19-year-old sophomore music education student from Miami, said college students don’t understand the importance of getting enough sleep.

“We don’t realize that staying up all night will affect you before driving home,” he said.

Gregory Holtz, a physician at the Tallahassee Sleep Diagnostic Center, said the biggest problem with drowsy drivers is their failure to acknowledge that they are tired.

“People think cold air, caffeine and smacking themselves is going to work, but it won’t,” Holtz said. “There is no substitute for sleep,” he added.

Sleep experts recommend at least eight hours of sleep at night in order to function properly. However, most Americans get less than seven hours. Scientific research shows that 24 percent of people 18-29 years age have fallen asleep while at the wheel and fall-asleep crashes are most common in young people.

Chinyere Ogbonna, a 20-year-old industrial engineering senior from Houston, said she wouldn’t drive long distances if she knows she is too tired.

“If I’m tired, I won’t be driving,” she said.

Ogbonna plans to have a friend ride with her when making the 11-hour drive home to Texas for the Christmas Holidays.

Holtz said one of the best tactics to combat sleepiness while on the road is to pull over and take a quick nap.

Patrick Wright, 23, said he sees nothing wrong with pulling over to the side of the road for a couple of minutes to rest his eyes.

“There have been plenty of times when I’ve pulled over to take a nap,” said the senior music education student from Birmingham, Ala.

Wright said other ways that he stays awake are by cracking his window and listening to music loudly.

Lockhart said he stays awake on the road by calling a friend or taking a break.

According to The National Sleep Foundation, drivers who are sleep-deprived or fatigued, driving long distances without rest breaks, driving during times when they are normally asleep, and are driving on long, rural roads are most at risk for falling asleep while driving.

Both Lockhart and Ogbonna agreed that getting an ample amount of rest before a long trip and not going out the night before a long drive, are ways their peers can ensure that they will stay awake while driving.

“Try to get at least six to seven hours of sleep a couple of days before the trip, Holtz advised. “And never try to play “catch up sleep.”‘