After posting about avoiding holiday traffic, I figured I’d better follow up with another important aspect of holiday driving: staying awake while at the wheel! I recently read an article explaining that 1 in 5 car accidents are cause by falling asleep at the wheel. That’s a pretty astounding statistic. Especially when you learn that 6,000 of those accidents result in at least one death. Let’s all do our part to avoid being part of that statistic, shall we? Here are a few ideas on how to stay awake while you’re at the wheel: 1. Drink caffeine. This is the classic stay-awake method, and for good reason! Though I don’t think caffeine should be heavily relied on during your everyday routine, it’s a great way to keep yourself alert on long road trips. The occasional 5-hour energy or Monster drink is certainly worth it if it helps you avoid a crash! Or, if you’re sensitive to caffeine you could always try a Dr. Pepper or Coke! 2. Eat snack foods. Another way to stay alert is to keep your mouth busy with snack foods. Try to find foods that will be slightly harder to eat, such as sunflower seeds, pistachios, or other crunchy snacks. Eat slowly to make them last and keep you from getting overly full! 3. Chew gum: If you get tired of snacking, you can always achieve the same effect by chewing gum. Try new flavors to keep yourself more occupied. 4. Keep the AC on: Warm temperatures will make your body sleepy, so blast the air conditioner if you are really starting to feel a wave of tiredness overcome you. 5. Roll down the windows: Similarly, try rolling down the windows for a boost of energy. Hanging your arm out the window and feeling the fresh breeze will do wonders for your energy levels, so remember to pull this trick every few hours! 6. Sit in an uncomfortable position: If you usually sit slouched and comfy in the driver’s seat, adjust your chair to a new position. The slight discomfort will keep you from drifting off while on the road for a long time. Try switching positions several times each hour. 7. Play games: Even if you aren’t suffering from drowsiness, games will help pass the time! Hopefully you have other passengers in the car to interact with and play games like 20 questions, the state license plate game, the alphabet game, etc. You know, those games that are only entertaining when you’re on a long ride in the car, right?! 🙂 8. Play loud music: When it comes to road trip music, louder and crazier, the better! Make a playlist ahead of time that you can jam out and dance to, then save it for moments when you’re starting to feel tired. It’s best to avoid audio books or mellow music in moments when you’re drowsy. 9. Take lots of breaks: Never under estimate the power of a quick stop on the road! Sure, you may want to get their as fast as possible, but you certainly won’t be getting there faster if you end up in a car accident :-/. When you stop, do some stretches and even try running a few laps around the car to get your blood flowing. 10. Switch drivers: If you have the luxury of other capable drivers on your road trip, switch it up and let someone else get behind the wheel for awhile. As long as you have another alert driver, take advantage of the time off and get some sleep. In contrast, if you have passengers that aren’t eligible drivers, make sure someone stays awake with you to help you avoid dozing off. And if all else fails, pull over! The second your eyes start to blink for a split second longer is the time you need to get off the road. DO NOT risk it or tell yourself that you’re not that tired. It’s just not worth the risk. Rest areas are there for a reason. So pull over, put up your feet and get some shut-eye! Even a 20-30 minute nap can do wonders for you.
Common sense — and the law — tells us not to drive while under the influence. But, even though it can be just as dangerous, there are few laws against driving while sleepy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that fatigue driving causes 100,000 accidents a year. The first step to preventing drowsy driving is to know the signs. If you notice the following signs that you’re too tired to drive, it’s time for a break:
- Excessive yawning
- Inability to keep your eyes open
- Trouble keeping head up
- Drifting between lanes
- You can’t remember the last few miles
- Get a good night’s rest before hittin’ the road.
- Be aware of medications you take that might cause drowsiness.
- Avoid driving late at night.
- If you’re driving with another person, make sure to take turns driving.
- Take plenty of rest stops and breaks.