You should absolutely avoid drowsy driving at all costs.
So, don’t let drowsiness get you. Studies show that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving even though we don’t hear nearly as much about it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year and that estimate is probably on the low side of the actual number. Drowsy driving is no joke and drivers should make sure they are well rested before hitting the road. If you are facing a long drive and are fatigued or overly tired, please consider postponing your trip until after you have gotten some rest. No destination or timetable is worth risking the safety of you, your family, or anyone else on the road.
That said, when you are facing a long drive, make sure you stay alert even when you’re well rested. Here are seven tips to help those longer hauls.
1. Bring someone along with you.
Having another person to switch off driving duty with is a great way to take a break without losing time on your trip. At the very least, you have someone else to keep an eye on you and let you know if they see you losing focus. And, of course, having someone else along for your road trip means you have someone to interact with which can help you stay alert.
2. Listen to something interesting.
Personally, I love to use alone time in the car to practice my own renditions of all my favorite songs. In addition to helping me stay alert, it also spares my family from being subjected to my off-off-Broadway productions. I also love using drive time to listen to podcasts or audio books. Check out a list of great audio books to listen to while on a long drive.
3. Eat healthy foods and snacks.
I know eating in the car can be a borderline controversial topic. If you are someone who does eat in the car, make sure your snacks are already unwrapped and easily accessible. Eating can actually be a good way to stay alert. If you don’t allow eating in your vehicle (I’ll bet you car is a lot cleaner than mine!) make sure that you are eating healthy foods when you stop for meals and snacks. While fast food may seem like a quick solution, a healthy meal that will give you steady energy over time is your best bet.
4. Beware of the energy drinks.
And, yes, I’m including coffee in that category. While energy drinks might give you a quick burst of clarity and focus, when you bottom out from your caffeine rush you may find yourself worse off than when you started. If you are really feeling like you can’t go on without some sort of caffeinated boost, that is a good sign that you need to stop and take a nap.
5. Open the windows.
This works especially well in colder weather. Not only will you get to treat all of your fellow travelers on the road to your personal rendition of “Can’t Stop the Feeling” (see #2) but the rush of air on your face will give you a jolt that should help you focus and stay alert.
6. Ditch the cruise control.
Using cruise control allows your mind to wander as you now have the vehicle on a form of auto-pilot. Using the pedals to adjust your speed according to the surroundings helps keep your mind active and more in tune with what is going on around you as you drive.
7. Annoy yourself.
Believe it or not, being a pest to yourself can help: play music from a band you hate, pinch your earlobe every once in a while, bite your lip. If you are starting to lose focus, the annoyance actually helps your brain to reset and get back on track.
Again, the best way to stay alert and focused on a long drive is to make sure that you start your journey well rested and stop and take breaks often–keep drowsiness at bay and reach your destination safely!