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Old 20th December 2016, 17:19   #1
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Drowsiness & Sleepy Driving: The silent killer on Indian roads

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Driving when you are sleepy & exhausted? Well, you're as much of a safety hazard as a drunk driver, says the AAA. And it's not just the AAA who's saying so. Even the NHTSA agrees. In fact, "you're more likely to die from drowsy driving than from texting while driving, distracted driving or drunk driving combined", according to the CSI Research Center.

The effects of drowsiness are similar to alcohol - it will make your driving inputs (steering, acceleration, braking) poorer, destroy your reaction times & blur your thought processes. The AAA says that 20% of all fatal accidents in the USA are due to drowsiness! We can only imagine what the stats are like for India which has a higher road accident rate. Problem is, no one researches this out here. Headlines only scream 'speeding car hits biker'. The Times of India has merely 800 results for 'sleepy driver' (link), but a whopping 2.23 lakh for 'speeding car' (link).

Get this, drivers who are deprived of 4+ hours of sleep are 10.2 times more accident prone! Some say that if you've been awake for ~24 hours, you are a more dangerous driver than a drunk one. Truth is, you could nod off without realising it if you are terribly fatigued! The problem is compounded because there's no way of catching sleepy drivers (like how cops nab drunks with breathalysers). No one went to jail for drowsy driving, did they? On a related note, 9 out of 10 USA cops admitted to pulling over drivers on suspicion of drunk driving, but the drivers were actually drowsy (source).

We've always discussed the perils of drunk driving, why one should buckle up, the importance of safety features & crash test ratings, yet this topic surprisingly doesn't have a dedicated thread on Team-BHP!

Symptoms from the Sleep Foundation:
  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming; wandering / disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few km driven; missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
  • Feeling restless and irritable

From the AAA Slides:

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Must-Read Threads:

Safe Highway Driving

Safe Night Driving

Safe Monsoon Driving

Safe Fog Driving

Last edited by GTO : 22nd December 2016 at 15:56.
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Old 20th December 2016, 17:19   #2
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Fundamental Rules & Trip-Planning
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What'll follow are some tips on avoiding sleepy driving (please share your own tips on this thread for the benefit of other BHPians ). Experts say that men between the teenage years to mid-thirties are the most vulnerable; this forms the majority of Team-BHP readers, so please read carefully:
  • Golden rule = Be well-rested! Ensure that you have gotten your 7 - 8 hours of sleep before the highway drive. Better you get to your destination a little late...than never at all . Personally, I love my sleep too much to sacrifice it for anything in the world. Your body is a stubborn tool - if you have a sleep debt, your body will snatch it back from you. I can't stress on this point enough = be well-rested before the highway drive.
  • Avoid late night driving on the highway. You'll be fresher in the morning (after sleep) than at the end of the day (after work or play). Your body is designed to sleep at night and lone, long cruising on an empty highway can put you to sleep. Yes, I'll agree that night driving has its own charms, but our highways are largely lawless at night & filled with drunks / other sleepy drivers too. Plus, continuous headlamp glare (from other cars) can tire your eyes out. I don't recommend highway driving at night in India.
  • Further to the previous point, plan such that you don't arrive at your destination too late. As an example, don't start from Bangalore at 1600 hours with a goal of hitting Goa by 0100 hours. Those final two hours of late night driving will have you drowsy (especially because you've been driving since the afternoon). Wherever you are going, get there latest by dinner time or in the whereabouts.
  • If you wake up early for work and plan to hit the highway in the evening (after work), get a good nap before driving. If it gets too late at work, well, don't head out. Sleep & leave in the morning instead. Among other things, your brain & eyes would've gotten tired from all that work.
  • If you have two or more cars, always choose the higher-calibre one for the highway. The better car will make the drive more enjoyable & less tiring (besides offering superior acceleration, handling, braking & safety).
  • Develop an attitude where you relish the drive....remember, the drive is as enjoyable as the destination for us enthusiasts. Don't set fixed deadlines ("I MUST reach Nashik by 1:30 p.m."). Chill out and have some fun on the road. Don't hurry up - it'll only stress you out.
  • Avoid driving marathons & saddlesore rides. Want to do Bombay -> Delhi nonstop? Split it up with an overnighter at the mid-point. Take a break, relax, enjoy the local flavours, then hit the road again the next morning. My personal limit for sharp driving is 10 - 12 hours, after which I need to call it a day.
  • If you are driving long distance & don't have the stamina for it, travel with a safe co-driver who you can share the wheel with. Swap every 2 - 3 hours. What's more, a co-driver helps even when he / she isn't driving. Research shows those driving alone are at a higher risk of falling asleep behind the wheel.
  • If driving long distance, leave early in the morning (say, 0630 hours instead of 0900) and beat the traffic. Leave late & you'll get stuck in city traffic; those initial 2 hours will tire you out and by noon, you'll have made little progress. Would mean driving for that much more time into the afternoon or evening. As an example, the last time that I drove to Goa, I left at 0500 hours (after 7 hours of sleep) and reached by lunch time. If, on the other hand, I'd left at 0900 hours, I'd have probably seen Goa only in the late evening. I guarantee you that 12 hours of slow-progress driving with traffic is a lot more draining than 9 - 10 hours of quicker progress.

Last edited by GTO : 22nd December 2016 at 15:56.
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Old 20th December 2016, 17:19   #3
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On the Road
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The advice in this post is NOT to cure sleepiness - it's only listing best practices to help you stay consistently alert. If you want to know what to do when you get sleepy, refer to the next post.
  • Drive with your air-conditioner in "fresh air" mode. If you prefer "recirculation" mode instead, remember to switch to "fresh air" mode once every 60 minutes or so. Alternatively, you could roll down your windows for instant gratification (every hour). Letting fresh air in will keep your cabin's oxygen levels higher and help you remain attentive.
  • Keep the windows rolled up. Being exposed to strong wind, heat & noise for a longer duration can tire you out. There is also the danger from flying pebbles & other foreign objects. Sealed windows are better from an aerodynamic point of view as well.
  • Maintain a steady pace at a speed that you & your car are comfortable with. You’ll find that constantly varying speeds make the drive stressful. A steady, consistently manageable pace helps in effortlessly munching those miles. All expert drivers do this; it's second nature to them.
  • Personally, fast music keeps me more alert than say, Buddha Bar / lounge music on the stereo.
  • Sip on water ever so often. If you don't, dehydration will easily wear you down.
  • Take a break every 90 - 120 minutes of driving. This is MANDATORY. Step out of the car, s-t-r-e-t-c-h (aids blood circulation), get some fresh air & drink a hot beverage. The California State University found that a short 10 minute walk can freshen the mind & body (by providing oxygen to the brain & muscles). Even F1 drivers don't race longer than 1.5 - 2 hours at one go !
  • In this short break, get a strong coffee / tea. Fruits / fruit juice can also help in keeping you fresh. On a recent long drive in the evening, a simple black coffee + bowl of pomegranate did wonders to my alertness levels. The difference was very obvious. Additionally, most people insist that a sugar-rich apple or chocolate make a difference.
  • Also in these breaks, wash your face with face wash + water or use wet wipes. This will keep you fresher.
  • Avoid overeating on the highway, it'll only make you drowsy. Eat 'enough', but strictly no stuffing yourself. Beware of carb-heavy lunch & dinner (e.g. rice).
  • Don't drink even a little alcohol. Alcohol + tiredness form a dangerous cocktail (pun intended).
  • If in a group, have at least one passenger stay up with you (more so during night driving). Piloting a car with all passengers sleeping isn't cool. Remember, yawning is contagious . Related thread.
  • Treat that first yawn as a warning sign. If you are starting to get drowsy, jump to the next post.

Last edited by GTO : 23rd December 2016 at 14:42.
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Old 20th December 2016, 17:19   #4
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Umm, I still got sleepy. Now what?
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  • Take a good nap. All said & done, this is the ONLY thing that'll work if you are sleepy. A short 25 - 30 minute nap can make a h-u-g-e difference to your alertness levels. Choose a safe parking spot as Indian highways are largely lawless. For instance, if you had lunch at a popular restaurant, take a nap in its parking lot - park where the security guard is seated and / or right next to the restaurant's entrance (lots of people movement). Even if you aren't hungry, order something small at a family-friendly restaurant so that you can use its parking lot to crash. You could similarly use the premises of a petrol pump, but do NOT park your car off the highway where there are no people around.
  • If you need a full night's sleep, just check into a hotel. There are no two sides to this. Wouldn't you rather rent a hotel room than one in the hospital? Don't take this point lightly. You’ll be amazed at the number of “confident” drivers who end up in crashes because of drowsiness.
  • Know when to stop, know when to take a break. If you get dog-tired, don't push it. Understand your own limits & respect them. Don't try to fight sleep as it can & will catch you out. Would you ever be able to live with the blood of your family members on your hands (related news)?
  • Let a passenger who's also a safe driver take the wheel while you sleep. Again, when driving long distance, it's a good idea to have someone to share the wheel with. Swap the driver's seat every 2 - 3 hours.
  • Call for a driver or hail a cab! You'd rather hire a driver than a doctor, trust me. This is best done before you start the journey. Only you are the best person to gauge whether you can drive or not.

Last edited by GTO : 20th December 2016 at 17:24.
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Old 20th December 2016, 17:19   #5
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The Smaller yet Significant Tips
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  • Ever heard of micro-sleep? About time you do - link to explanation. Without even realising it, you could fall asleep for up to 30 seconds. Forget 30 seconds, even in a 3-second snooze, you could drive straight into that truck coming from the opposite side. No.1 cause of micro-sleep guessed it, fatigue.
  • If you've had a 20 hour day, don't drive! If you've taken medicines that have a sedating effect (even cough syrups & pain killers do), don't drive. If you've just flown in from a distant country, don't drive (jet lag). You could be at a higher risk of drowsiness / falling asleep behind the wheel if you have unusual work timings (e.g. call center shift all through the night). Beware.
  • Get fit. All said & done, fit people perform tasks (including driving) better than the not-so-fit.
  • In particular, you need to stay cautious on empty arrow-straight expressways where there is relatively little work for the driver to do.
  • Cruise control can be more dangerous in this case! For one, it gives the driver one less thing to do. Then, if you do fall asleep, the car will keep on accelerating even after you've drifted off into slumber!
  • Red Bull has mixed reviews (related thread). Some BHPians insist that chewing gum & lemon juice help.
  • Drowsy driving is a lot more dangerous for bikers as they don't have a protective 'cage' around them, and riding is anyway more tiring than driving. Motorcyclists, be careful!
  • Some people have this habit of afternoon naps - my folks have been addicted to afternoon snoozes since their twenties. If you fall in this category, don't get behind the wheel at the usual time of your nap. In fact, as far as possible, don't drive at any hour that you are normally sleeping. Acknowledge & respect your body clock.
  • If you have trouble staying up during the day, you might have a medical condition like sleep apnea. Get yourself checked up before it's too late.
  • The trouble with us enthusiasts is we can't sleep before a long drive - (related thread)!!
  • I've mainly focused on the highway in this article, but drowsiness is risky in the city as well.
  • A BHPian has been looking for ideas on developing a 'sleep detection system' - related thread.

Last edited by GTO : 28th December 2016 at 15:17.
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Old 20th December 2016, 17:19   #6
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Don't do a Mr. Bean

Notice the absence of brake lights. Did this driver doze off?

Carmakers like Mercedes have added a 'drowsiness alert system' to combat the problem. We first saw it in the 2009 E-Class. Your driving is continuously judged on 70 parameters. If the Mercedes feels you need a break, the MID will ask you to take a refreshment stop:

Take a look at this cab driver (sleepy + no seatbelt):

A fatal crash caused by a snoozing dude:

Cruise control could make things even more dangerous - this car kept on accelerating long after the driver drifted into sleep:

An awe-inspiring initiative by VW. Towards the end, it says "because some times, not driving is driving carefully":

Last edited by GTO : 20th December 2016 at 17:21.
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Old 20th December 2016, 17:19   #7
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BHPians Speak
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Before I list some very interesting posts from BHPians, a personal experience. The first & last time I drove being terribly drowsy was about 20 years ago. Never did it since then. In the nineties, me & a cousin had driven to Shirdi. The plan was to sleep over at our house in Deolali and drive back to Bombay the next morning. Now, while we’re doing dinner, for some reason (IIRC, an urgent matter came up), we decided to drive back to Bombay right then & there. Of course, it helped that the place we were having dinner at (i.e. Taj Nashik) is right on the highway to Bombay. Had a good meal and started driving back (IIRC, it was my cousin’s Cielo – a hot car at the time). Now, keep in mind that we were on the road since the morning and had spent a lot of time roaming around Shirdi. Getting in the car at the end of a long day was a horrible idea. At about midnight, after 60 - 90 minutes of driving, I was starting to feel terribly drowsy. Luckily, my cousin was well-rested as only I had been driving since the morning. Swapped seats and dozed off. Next thing I know, we’ve reached my house!! So tired was I that I slept through the entire return journey - didn't even realise where those 90 minutes went! Promised myself never to do it again and haven’t. As Moderator Aditya once said ‘start early and wrap up your driving by 6 p.m. No driving after that’. Even today, Aditya follows this rule. You can anyway make very good progress with 10 – 12 hours of driving if you’ve started early.

Originally Posted by Vikram Patel View Post
I know that there have been many incidents with falling asleep while on the wheel, but most of them escape relatively unharmed. I was not so fortunate (yet still very fortunate).

It was 8 in the morning. I was driving an Innova with 2 other friends on the Taj Expressway. We had a late night the previous night, but I had 2 cups of coffee before starting and was drinking coke all the way. Since both my friends were asleep, I was trying to maintain a speed of 90 km/h. I was a bit drowsy and my eyes shut for a few seconds. Next thing I knew, I had a tyre blowout and my car was travelling at 120 and was inches away from a pole. I braked hard and swerved, but to no avail. My car struck the pole and flipped over 3 times before finally coming to a rest due to the side railing. Never have I ever felt so much fear. Luckily, we all escaped relatively unscathed. No major injuries. But the car was completely totalled. So bad that it had to be sold off as scrap. Took me a good 4 months to get back to driving again. Never again. I am so afraid of that incident that my body stops driving if I feel sleepy even if I want to. It just doesn't oblige.
Originally Posted by venuvedam View Post
The Alto had two folks in it. Vishnu was driving the car. Hemabhushan was in the navigation seat. They were returning from Chennai airport after sending off Vishnu’s parents to the US. They hadn't slept at all. They started from Nellore at 8 pm the previous night; reached Chennai airport around midnight; sent off folks to the US and started driving back to Nellore immediately as it was only 3 hours from there.

Apparently (we do not know for sure), Vishnu slept for a moment and ended up grazing the median of the highway at around 100 km/h near Doravari Satram on NH5. The front right tyre burst and the car got pulled onto the median immediately. At that speed, it was airborne for a few moments before landing on the oncoming lanes.

The truck driver coming from Nellore towards Chennai, suddenly saw a car flying into his truck. He slammed on the brakes. But of course, he could not have prevented the head-on collision. The car was thrown back 100 meters. The truck’s front axle broke and the truck hit the median. Truck driver was not injured. He immediately rushed to the car to find both of them dead on the spot.

The car was so mangled that they had to use a crane to get the bodies out of the car.
Originally Posted by zaks View Post
It is a very sad day for me for I lost two of my best friends in a car accident yesterday. My friend who recently got married had come from the US for a break and since his visa renewal got delayed, he had ample free time. So he and another friend of ours with three others went to Mangalore for a trip. But as fate would have it, three of them died while returning in Periyapatna in a road accident.

The Hindu: Karnataka / Mysore News: Three killed in road accident

It is a tragic loss for their family and me personally. The Zen in which they were travelling collided with a truck. It appears that the truck driver was not at fault as one of my friends who was driving was sleepy and momentarily went on to the path of an oncoming truck. The impact was so much that it took an hour to extricate the driver.

The other friend who was in the front seat suffered a head injury and also died on the spot. Out of the three who were on the back seat, one died on the way to the hospital and two are in the hospital (with one in critical condition).

I miss my friends terribly and I request to all those driving to drive safely and be sober. Please, please never overspeed on the highway even for a momentary adrenaline rush and end up as tied baggage at your home.
Originally Posted by ankurchaturvedi View Post
The incident which I am sharing happened a couple of years back. I had some work in South Mumbai and left at about 6:00 A.M from Thane. I had slept late the previous night and was feeling drowsy and irritable at the wheel (was driving an Accent). I left home and had ascended the Cadbury Bridge in Thane, when I think I dozed off for a second. Big mistake as I was driving on the right hand lane!!

An XUV500 had suffered a breakdown and was parked in this lane (he had his hazard lights on). My car went over a column of the flyover (the kind which has two metal rails horizontally running through the center of the road). It jarred me awake and I spotted the XUV500 in the nick of time. Slammed the brakes and tried to steer away, but had no ABS! End result was that I slammed into the XUV500 at a low speed (I don't remember the exact speed now, but must have been less than 10 km/h). A Polo slammed into my car from the rear. The damages: XUV500 - almost none, my car - front and rear bumpers were dented, Polo - front bumper dented and number plate jarred loose.
Originally Posted by Serenity_Nimble View Post
Rented a Hyundai Sonata AT in Minneapolis at 01:00 in the morning and drove towards Indianapolis (a 10 hour drive). Had less sleep the previous night and none that night either.

Despite having another driver friend beside me, I did not wake him up (yes, all 4 passenger friends were snoring and sleeping, tempting my drowsy self). The road was long, dark, lonely and mesmerizing. Lulled me to steal a few winks. And all of a sudden, with the needle in the speedo pointing at 80 mph and awakened of my stupor, I found the Sonata had skipped a couple of lanes without my knowledge. Devil knows and I think maybe me too, what all might have happened if the Sonata had veered even further and embraced the oncoming traffic. I pulled over, washed my face, stretched, ate a few snacks and resumed the journey. Caught myself starting to doze off again and an hour later, stopped and reluctantly gave the driver's seat to my friend, conceding defeat to drowsiness.

Lesson learnt: If drowsiness attacks you even once, stop driving, take a nap and resume driving after you are refreshed.
Originally Posted by gsurya View Post
We were on a holiday in Switzerland & returning to Zurich at night after a long tiring day. My brother-in-law was driving, I was beside him, his wife & mother in the rear seat with a kid.

I was also a bit drowsy, but tried to keep awake; somewhere in my drowsy brain, I felt the car drifting to the right. I jerked awake, saw my bro-in-law had also dozed off & the car was just about to crash into the barrier.

I quickly grabbed the wheel & swerved the car back to the road & almost smashed into a truck, narrowly missing it.

Bro-in-law was truly shaken; Mom-in-law hysterical, but all's well that ended well.

Moral of the story: Sleep kills. Not just in Nightmare on Elm Street.
Originally Posted by bhardwhu View Post
Sleepy at the Wheel - This happened when I had to attend the wedding of my friend's sister in Palampur, Himachal. I started driving in my Alto from Delhi at about 2200 and reached 50 kilometres short of destination early morning at 0430. I had taken a coffee break fifteen minutes prior to this juncture and yet, I dozed off on a left bending incline with a deep gorge on to my right. The left of the road incidentally had a mountain wall and I was doing about 40 km/h. Suddenly, I was woken up from that small but horribly drowsy state, by hearing metal smashing on my left. Car skidded against the hill and the front wheel got badly misaligned. The front fender was gone and apparently, it was a structural damage.

Lessons learnt - Expensive repairs ( >10000) and more importantly, never to drive if there is a slight hint of sleepy or weary feelings. I have absolutely abstained from morning 0300-0600 hour driving times since then. I do prefer driving at nights, but not in the stated interval where I have observed higher concentration lapses.
Originally Posted by Divya Sharan View Post
3 friends on 3 bikes decided to do a trip to Ooty from Bangalore and return on the same day. To keep the trip entertaining, we modified the route as Bangalore-Mysore bypass-Ooty-Mettupalayam-Sathyamangalam-Chamarajanagar-Kollegal-Bangalore. This meant riding over 700 km in one day. We were all game for it.

We reached Ooty, did some sight-seeing and proceeded towards Sathyamanagalam when I felt drowsy. I asked other riders to stop to know they felt the same. Plus, the roads were only ghat sections. We stopped after a while and rested for about 30 min.

But that wasn't enough!

We were somewhere near Chamarajanagar and it was 9 pm already with a lot of kilometres to cover to reach Bangalore (next day was Monday), we increased our speeds to 70ish. Roads were stark empty. It was completely dark, no lights on the road or nearby.

I started feeling sleepy again. Then it happened. I was trailing behind two other riders by about 50 odd meters when I closed my eyes for a couple of seconds and bam! I was running at 65ish in a straight ditch!

Vowed not to ride again if I feel sleepy. Though my endurance levels have increased now and I have done 1000 km in a day, but I never ride without taking ample amount of sleep beforehand.
Originally Posted by drkakkilaya View Post
After years of driving, now I have identified my limitations. I kind of get drowsy around 2 pm, 7 pm, 10 pm, 2 am and 4 am. Around this time, I'll be a bit more careful or take a power nap and hand over the steering to someone I trust (No stunts ha ha). It once happened that during one of my drives to Kerala, I was behind the wheel for 12 hours and it was about 10 pm when I had a momentary lapse of concentration. My eyes shut for a second and I ended up on the opposite side, right in front of a car with just enough time to turn to my lane.
Originally Posted by chennai-indian View Post
Had started very early in the morning and also did not have much sleep the previous night. I was driving at a steady clip (probably 60 miles an hour) with the cruise control engaged. My wife was dozing off in the passenger seat next to me. My kids (3 and 6 year olds) were at the back in child seats. Traffic was light, a soothing song was on the music player and apparently, I drifted off to sleep . It was my son's "appa watch out" cry that woke me up - I had drifted from the inner lane to the outermost lane and was fast approaching a bend on the road. If my son's cry had not woken me up, I would have hit the shoulder dividers head on. Shudder to think what could have happened.

From that time on, whenever I felt drowsy, I made sure I stopped and rested before starting off again.
Originally Posted by drkumarmp View Post
I was just going through all the posts in this section & am very impressed since these are important lessons to others. It takes a lot of courage for someone to accept their mistakes & more importantly...their inadequacies with driving, since I had read somewhere that every man thinks he is the best in the world at two things (one of them is driving ).

Once while returning to Bangalore, I had dinner at Kamat Lokaruchi at Ramanagara & considered washing my face, but thought it is just an hour's drive to Bangalore, so why bother & continued. After about 20 minutes, the drowsiness started & I just closed my eyes to give it a couple of seconds rest & had gone to sleep for a brief period. This time, I actually had a small dream that confirmed that I had actually dozed off.

I checked the internet & there are plenty of cases abroad - the constant staring at the road, with a constant speed, not moving the head much, the eyes get strained & in turn drowsiness sets in.

Most accidents take place when we are less than 100 km from our destination. Since before that, we will stop & take a break, but when we are this close, we think we can just push ourselves a bit further & get home. Bad call!
Originally Posted by Blur View Post
Had not managed much sleep for the last two days, so cousin drove from Mumbai to Pune. I took over the wheel in the morning, when returning to Mumbai. Midway, we decided to head off to Lonavla. So took the Lonavla exit ramp and entered the town. All was well till then. Suddenly, I dozed off for an instant!

My cousin, who was sitting beside me, shook me awake. He said that the car had veered and we were heading straight for two people walking on the side . Luckily, the speed wasn't much because we had just come off the exit ramp!

Gave him the wheel right then and there. And swore never to drive again when feeling drowsy.
Originally Posted by dushmish View Post
Knowing one's body clock is the key to long drives. Lovely roads, sparse traffic and nice food, cannot get more soporific. Driving from Mehndipur ke Balaji (near Mahua on Jaipur Agra road) NH 11 I guess, in my Dad's 800 with 5 passengers, I too had a momentary lapse when the car swerved onto the right side of the road on a longish turn. Drowsiness had taken the best of me, I realised it in a millisecond. My heart stopped for once. Had there been a truck coming from the opposite direction - Disaster! No one noticed. I still feel guilty of it and get a scary feeling as I write about the incident.

Shared it with wife later (she was a passenger). Have told her to keep talking to me post snack drives, especially the graveyard shift (1 pm to 4 pm).
Originally Posted by hondatoyotafan View Post
I guess highway hypnosis occurs to anyone who has driven in the US. Once I was travelling late in the night from Austin to Dallas on I-35. Almost near Waxahachie, early in the morning at 4, the road was clear and everything was silent except the engine and relentless humming of the wheels. I dozed off without my knowledge and the next thing I realized when I woke up was that I was dangerously close to an Ontario registered car and she was honking relentlessly to wake me up - I was maybe 1 feet away from collision when I finally woke up.
Originally Posted by naveendhyani View Post
Last night, my sister-in-law was travelling from Jaipur to Delhi with her friend & her family when her friend's brother, who was behind the wheel dozed off near Kotputli.

The car hit the milestone head on & flipped upside down starting a small fire in the engine compartment. Even though the boy was hit the worst (mostly internal injuries), he promptly came out of the car & pulled everybody out of the vehicle.
Originally Posted by fine69 View Post
I have driven from Delhi to Jaisalmer and from Jaisalmer to Delhi at a stretch. But while going, I stopped over twice to take a 30 min nap and while coming back, I stopped over once to take a 30 min nap.

I learnt my lesson when I had almost no memory the next day of driving the last 100 km on a 22 hour driving trip (from the mountains to Delhi the day before). Why? Because I didn't listen to my body and even indulged in over-speeding to remain awake. Never again I said!

I would strongly recommend people to not try and make any records on public roads by driving for long distances or driving non-stop. One not only risks themselves and their family, but also others' lives on the road.

Though people recommend having a coffee/Red Bull, but in my experience of having driven a couple lakh kilometres on Indian highways, no amount of caffeine is going to keep you awake when you start falling asleep. It might just delay it by a few minutes. Park your car and take a nap! Even a 15 minute nap can do wonders, been there done that! One recommendation on parking your car in such cases = avoid parking just adjacent to the side of the road, who knows when another sleepy driver gets off the road.

Stop over at a dhaba/food-joint, purchase a toffee if you think he'd object to you parking there and doze off!!
Originally Posted by dockap View Post
Something like this almost happened to me on the 19th of this month. I along with my family (my parents, wife and son) had gone to Bramhavar from Mangalore for Ganesh Chaturthi in the morning and after the puja + heavy meal, were returning to Mangalore. It was around 3 pm and I was driving. My parents and son had fallen asleep and I was chatting with my wife; the next thing I know is that the XUV500 is at the extreme right shoulder of the road and the thick vegetation which had grown almost onto the road is scrapping the right side of my car. I braked hard and I think the safety of my XUV500 W8 AWD came into play. The tyres screeched, but I didn't lose control and was able to steer it back to the left side of the road.

All this happened in a split second and everyone in the car had fallen asleep. My wife remembers chatting with me and the next thing she heard was screeching of the tyres. Luckily, I'd woken up just in time and there was no vehicle approaching from the opposite lane.

It still scares the daylight out of me when I think about how close we were to getting killed.
Originally Posted by acroback View Post
One of my relatives lost his life while returning from Haridwar because he dozed off mid-way after a good lunch and a nice bath in the Ganges. Also, he was not wearing his seatbelt.

I learnt a lesson that day. Never drive if you are feeling sleepy and without seatbelts.
Originally Posted by carwatcher View Post
Four years ago when returning from Fatehpur to Jaipur in my humble Maruti 800, at around 3.00-3.30 am, I dozed off for a split second and my car kind of skidded on the road. I regained concentration almost immediately and continued safely after that, but still curse myself till date for the carelessness. I had 4 friends with me who were all asleep and didn't realise what happened. I was the only driver and their lives were dependent on me.
Originally Posted by Farukh View Post
I was with my family coming back from an outstation funeral. It was my maiden attempt of a long drive. The 4 lane highway from Nizamabad to Hyderabad is probably one of the best roads I have seen and as some of us may call it, "ekdum makkhan". It was around 11 pm in the night and I was driving with my family, with my Dad in the co-passenger seat (Dad has a vast driving experience). He was chatting with me to make sure that I stay awake. I was not even sleepy, but at one moment, my eyes shut for half a second. I opened them with a jerk and saw that I was mildly drifting towards the divider, but I had it under control. It scared the Sh*t out of me.
Originally Posted by rajinibm View Post
Around 7 am, I felt drowsy and thought "let me stop the car someplace and sleep for an hour or two", so I would feel refreshed and would feel better to drive the remaining way. But then decided against it and drove on thinking I would not reach Chennai by 6 pm!

I drove on and was so sleepy that my eyes were closing on their own and I knew this. Still, all I did was I said to myself 'don't sleep' as you are driving and it would be dangerous! At least half a dozen times, my eyes shut the next second when I was telling myself not to sleep, and I would wake up with a jerk and see the car rolling to the right/left. Once I opened my eyes and I was like 20 ft. away from a truck - if I had not woken up, I would have hit the truck head on! After this, I told myself "what the hell are you doing? Be awake"! But the next second like a reflex motion, I dozed off and when I opened my eyes, I was just a second away from crashing the car into the road divider.
Originally Posted by drifter View Post
Doing comfortable speeds of around 110 km/h, all the passengers are fast asleep and some light music plays on the CD player. I just glance down at the odometer reading and finally my sleepiness gets the better of me and my eyes shut for about 2-3 seconds. They open when my car is on gravel, hurtling towards a hairpin bend at more than 100 km/h. Everything goes into slow motion mode, I can see there’s a tree just off the hairpin. Now that it was decided that there's nothing I can do to avoid a collision, I’m already thinking of ways to keep damage to a minimum. I think of pulling the handbrake, but that would have meant going sideways into the tree and that would have certainly killed us. The car catches quite a bit of air and flies almost 15 feet, goes head-on into the mountain side, almost rolls onto its side and manages to land with all the four wheels hovering over the ground.

Lesson: Fatigue kills! Lucky us!
Originally Posted by Ram View Post
Sunday morning 4 am. Ghastly accident on the Pune-Mumbai expressway.

A Mumbai-bound Force Trax vehicle rear-ended a 14-wheel trailer truck at 130 km/h, got stuck in its rear axle and got dragged for 7 km. The trailer-truck driver did not realize what had happened. The blood-stained vehicle had human flesh, broken bangles and windshield glass scattered within its interior.

Sixteen lives were lost in the Trax: 10 women, 3 children and 3 men including the driver. The driver was 25, tired and had fallen asleep before he died and killed so many.

The Trax's speedo is still stuck at 130 km/h.
Image Credits: The pictures of this Article have been sourced from various Team-BHP threads. Thanks to BHPians for shooting & sharing them.

Last edited by GTO : 21st December 2016 at 00:09.
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Old 20th December 2016, 17:34   #8
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Re: Drowsiness & Sleepy Driving: The silent killer on Indian roads

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Old 20th December 2016, 17:56   #9
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Re: Drowsiness & Sleepy Driving: The silent killer on Indian roads

Great thread GTO. I always rest well before a highway drive and I can depend on my dad to drive half the distance. Leaving early is out of question for me considering my Grandpa travels with me. But I live close to NICE road, so city traffic doesn't affect unless I'm doing rural AP via KR Puram.

I always think one particular industry needs regulation- Ola/Uber cabs in city.
I've seen many of them drive 16-18 hour shifts, with most of their driving being in the city. Agreed that no cabbie will ever drive more than 8-10 hours of the 16 hours, but I think even 8-10 hours of driving in the city is extremely stressful, especially considering he's definitely going to be on the move during peak-hour traffic.

Some drivers also start driving for Uber after 6pm (after "Regular Duty"- maybe for the rental agency) and drive well into the night.

Hope the government does something about this.

Last edited by landcruiser123 : 20th December 2016 at 17:59.
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Old 20th December 2016, 18:45   #10
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Re: Drowsiness & Sleepy Driving: The silent killer on Indian roads

I travel with my family mostly and am the only driver. While this thread was started now, I have always been paranoid about falling asleep while driving and ALWAYS make sure never ever to drive even with the slight bit of drowsiness/fatigue. I always make sure to get enough rest the night before and start early in the morning. I try to sleep at around 19.00-20.00 hours after an early dinner and wake up at around 4.00/5.00 hours. Take bath in ice cold water just to ensure that I was completely fresh for the drive.

I had taken a trip a few months back and Father in Law had our driver accompany us. Since he was there I never wanted to drive and instead was busy enjoying the scenic route. It was a 2 day return trip with around 800 kms one way. On the way back I noticed that the driver's responses were getting a bit sloppy even though he was well rested the night before. Took no chances and asked him to switch places and drove back. Some time later Father In Law called and said that since it was night we should take a halt as the driver is not a night person. I told him I was driving and we were fine. It was almost 10PM and was nearing Kolhapur where we were planning to stop for dinner. For some reason I decided to halt there for the night even though we were just 2-3 hours away from home.

For some reason I have never ever been able to get myself to take a break every 60-120 minutes, something that I am improving on. This thread is a great eye opener, especially the experiences of our members. Thanks for sharing
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Old 20th December 2016, 18:53   #11
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Re: Drowsiness & Sleepy Driving: The silent killer on Indian roads

Great thread GTO. Thanks for sharing. After reading, few things that I know I am guilty of stands out strongly for me.
  • I typically prefer to start a journey between 4-5am. Especially if it a holiday weekend. This means that 7-8 hours sleep criteria does not get fulfilled. I consciously keep the day before the journey light and hit the bed by 9pm, but invariably since I am not used to sleeping at that time, it takes some time for me to doze off. So I typically end up getting ~5 hours sleep. In general I am an early riser, so I feel good when I wake up. Of course, if I don't feel good I delay the start.

  • Regarding the point about an early start enabling you to cover longer distances quicker. Due to this thought, I tend to drive for ~3 hours without stopping. Not ideal.

  • A lot of my drives is to my hometown, so there is always a 'thinking ahead' as to when I can reach and whether I can meet that time. I don't push to meet those timelines, but the thought itself I feel is not good.

On the plus side, for my upcoming drive, I have already decided to leave on Sunday instead of Saturday as I know I will be busy till Friday night. And have also decided to not plan to reach before a particular time. Will still leave early- As that is critical when going out of Bangalore.

A timely reminder about priorities before the vacation time when most folks will be going out on drives. Thanks once again.

Last edited by Rajeevraj : 20th December 2016 at 18:54.
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Old 20th December 2016, 19:15   #12
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Re: Drowsiness & Sleepy Driving: The silent killer on Indian roads

Sharing 2 incidents of mine so that I confess to not repeat the mistake again (which I haven't till date); I'm thankful & grateful to God, forefathers & my stars to have survived...

During 2012 when I rode GQ, on the first day started from Chennai by 2:15 AM & kept riding with ample breaks & reached Pune by 11:30 (usually I reach by 5:30 PM), met a friend & then kept riding towards Bombay. Around 2:00 AM (next day) or so, somewhere in the NH there was a 2 lane stretch, I was following a truck & was frequently checking opportunity to overtake & suddenly I see a white animal running across the front of the truck, I thought it was rabbit & was wondering what a rabbit was doing on NH. That is when I realized there's no truck in front of me!! Pulled over near a temple, asked my friend to watch over & had a power nap for 10 minutes. Needless to say, I was riding with full confidence until 3:30 AM to reach my friend's home in Thane.

Same GQ trip, 5th day had a poor sleep at Badhrak, Orissa & the previous day we had ridden from Mohania, Bihar to Badhrak. Still had a very good start at 3:43 AM from Badhrak & by 7:00 AM while we were at Rambha I had the sleep slapping me harder. Pulled over at a tollgate & slept for some 15-20 minutes & continued, rather dragged along. Around 11:30 AM at ourskirts of Vishakapatnam I suddenly found my right hand pulling the brake lever & right leg pressing the rear brake stronger. While I was wondering why there was no reason, I suddenly realized I was about to rear end a Discover (or Pulsar) & had stopped the bike. I turned my head to left & found a policeman laughing that I had nearly missed hitting the bike. Immediately I pulled away from that place towards BPCL COCO, filled up tank, had refreshments & left by 12:01 PM and by 3:19 PM I was at Guntur - Vijayawada bypass. The refreshments & break definitely helped me a lot to reach home that day by 9:30 PM

Lessons learnt
- Have a good filter coffee, pure coffee without milk to postpone sleep
- If you gotta sleep, just sleep no matter how much time it takes; it's worth driving late rather than to be called Late Mr xxx
- Sleep in a safe place such as 24 hour fuel station or tollgates where there's lot of movements or security
- Do not let the person at passenger seat to sleep for whatsoever reason; just ask them to go back or have a co-passenger who will avoid sleeping
- People who can effectively manage listening to music & drive at same time, listen to some comedy programme so as to avoid sleeping
- Without changing the sleep pattern, DO NOT ever do a night drive
- Dawn & Dusk are weakest moment, drive/ride with extra cautious even on roads that are back of palm
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Old 20th December 2016, 19:27   #13
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Re: Drowsiness & Sleepy Driving: The silent killer on Indian roads

- When at home or at work, if you have the habit of drinking coffee/tea at 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM, make sure you find a restaurant at around that time for a coffee break. Your body needs coffee/tea at that time because you are used to it. Even if you are not tired, stop for a beverage break.

- Even if you know the route to your destination, keep Google Maps ON. If your ETA keeps going up slowly over time, it probably means you are not concentrating on your driving because of tiredness/drowsiness. It's my drowsiness early warning detection system.

- If your eyes are hurting and you have a mild headache too - get a beverage, wash your face and pop a Dolo 650 (paracetamol). This helps in clearing up your head quickly.

- While driving long distances, our minds wander off into thinking about other stuff (work/home/politics/movies/cricket etc). Get back in line and think only about driving. Let your brain "work" through the drive. Examples:

Speed is 70 kmph. Destination ETA 8:00 PM, good enough.
Ooh, Mahindra Thar ahead. Neat.
Let me rev the engine to 5000 RPM.. hee hee!
Truck ahead. Is he going to swerve?
Woaah. Pot hole, pot hole.
What a moron. Look at him go.
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Old 20th December 2016, 19:37   #14
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Re: Drowsiness & Sleepy Driving: The silent killer on Indian roads

Thanks for sharing. Tough for people to acknowledge but sleep is a big killer.

There is always pressure to reach on time but on our highways its not possible for most of the time. So when i am planning a long trip, i tell them that i will be late so please do not make plans involving me until i reach the destination.

My companion for long drives are:

1) Flask 1 with black coffee
2) Flask 2 with just hot water.
3) Enough food that can be eaten without messing up - biscuits, idly, dry fruits, some fresh fruits.
4) I make sure i drink a lot of water - this forces me to urinate every couple of hours and that becomes a break.
5) If i feel sleepy, then the car is stopped and i sleep inside the car till the time i get fresh.

Avoid sugary drinks - All the colas, juices, tea/coffee with sugar. I was a big fan of red bull till i realized the damage it was causing.

In addition:

1) If you are a frequent driver, please get your eye checked up regularly and wear glasses if needed (dont wait for the "headache")
2) Please dont drive if you had a fight with your girlfriend or wife (or anyone)
3) If you are driving, please let your dear ones know about your plan and ask them to reduce the distractions by calling you, reminding about the marks, pending tasks etc.
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Old 20th December 2016, 20:37   #15
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Re: Drowsiness & Sleepy Driving: The silent killer on Indian roads

Guys, what if you work regular night shifts and usually sleep during the day? Is day time driving to be avoided then? I have recently started working the U.S shift (1800 Hrs to 0300 Hrs) and have trouble falling asleep at nights I'm not working. I also feel drowsy during the day.

The added trouble is that I work on this shift for 2 weeks in a month and revert to regular timings for the remainder of the month(1200 Hrs to 2100 Hrs), I think my body clock is getting confused

Last edited by ike : 20th December 2016 at 20:42.
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