Driving while sleepy can be deadly. In fact, sleepy drivers have symptoms similar to drunken drivers: Drowsiness slows your reaction time, impairs your judgment and decreases your awareness.

A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 9.5 percent of all crashes involve a drowsy driver—a figure much higher than federal estimates of 1 to 2 percent.

Drivers who miss two to three hours of the expert-recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep more than quadruple their risk for a crash—the risk equivalent of driving drunk. In addition, drivers should not rely on their bodies to provide warning signs, as more than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related crashes experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel.

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To avoid drowsy driving, AAA recommends:

Get plenty of rest

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If you haven’t had enough sleep, take a short nap before you start driving—at least 20 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

Use the buddy system

If you’re taking a road trip, ask someone to travel with you. This way, you can give each other driving breaks every few hours.

Avoid driving long distances at night after you’ve worked all day

You’re most likely already tired from an eight-hour day, and driving all night in the dark requires more concentration. Vehicle death rates at night are three times higher than during the day, according to the National Safety Council.

Be mindful of sleepiness symptoms

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Some symptoms include having trouble keeping your eyes open and focused, daydreaming, drifting from your lane or off the road, yawning frequently, feeling irritable and restless, and not remembering how far you’ve traveled or what you have recently passed. But remember that you can be drowsy and not have any symptoms.

Don’t drink any alcohol before driving

You should never drink and drive. Even small amounts of alcohol will enhance drowsiness.

Don’t use a “quick fix” to stay alert

The only antidote for drowsiness is sleep. Short-term tactics like drinking coffee, singing and rolling down the window will not work. The body’s need for sleep will eventually override the brain’s attempts to stay awake.

If you find that you’re frequently tired, even though you sleep eight or more hours a night, you might have an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, chronic insomnia, restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy (a condition where you fall asleep without warning during ordinary situations). Discuss your symptoms with a doctor.

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