I’ve been driving from Kuala Lumpur to Perak every weekend for the last two weeks. It usually takes me about two to three hours to reach my destinations. One of most challenging thing along the journey would be staying awake while driving, especially when there is a traffic jam and the sun is blazing hot.
Getting behind the wheel when you’re yawning could be more dangerous than you think, according to new research showing that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as driving drunk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. drivers sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours daily. In a recent related AAA Foundation survey, nearly all drivers (96 percent) say they view drowsy driving as a serious threat to their safety and a completely unacceptable behaviour. However, 29 percent admitted to driving when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open at some point in the past month. -Source-
“As many Americans struggle to balance their busy schedules, missing a few hours of sleep each day can often seem harmless,” said Jake Nelson, director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research for AAA.
“But missing just two to three hours of sleep can more than quadruple your risk for a crash, which is the equivalent of driving drunk.”
Knowing the warning signs of drowsiness can help drivers avoid dozing off behind the wheel. The most common symptoms include:
- Having trouble keeping your eyes open
- Drifting from your lane
- Not remembering the last few miles driven
I’ve compiled a list of methods and tips to stay awake while driving, and hopefully, this will benefit many of you:
Cat-nap before getting on the road
Studies have shown that even if you sleep for less than an hour, your body receives crucial rest it needs to help you stay awake into the night. Pull over and take 20-minute power-naps while en route when you need them as well. Don’t try and fight your fatigue to save time; you might end up hurting others and yourself.
Eat a healthy meal after your pre-route nap
I know, I know! Grabbing that fast food when hitting the road is convenient, but the fat, salt and sugar makes you tired. Energy food consists of complex carbohydrates and protein, which will give you long-lasting stamina. Eat whole grains – 100 percent ones, not the “contains whole grains” things – lean meats, fruits, veggies … the good stuff! These foods will help keep you awake on your route.
Take your vitamins
Certain vitamins, like B’s and C’s, give you energy. Just make sure to take them with your healthy meal, or your body won’t absorb them and you won’t realize their full benefits.
Get a pair of sunglasses
Extreme brightness and distracting reflections can impair visibility when driving and be the cause of a freak accident. I used to have difficulties driving in the afternoon, especially around 1 to 3 pm when the sun is shining brightly in the sky. Having a pair of good sunglasses help me a lot, not only that I look great and cool, it also prevents my eyes from getting tired easily.
Move and do some stretching
Move when you get tired. Pull over, get out of your cab and stretch your legs. You’re sitting for extended periods of time and you need to move around to keep your blood flowing; this keeps your energy up. Heck! Keep the authorities happy at the same time by using a quick truck and trailer inspection as your excuse to stop driving for a second. A walk around your rig should perk you up.
Crank up the volume of your music if necessary
Music affects your mood which, in turn, affects your fatigue level. If you’re feeling a little sleepy or even down, listen to some lively music that you can sing along with. Who cares if you can’t carry a tune? Only you can hear you!
Listen to the radio
Keeping your mind occupied will help you stay awake. You can probably pump your adrenaline up with some interesting discussions, jokes or pop quizzes. Once you get tired of music, change it to radio and listen to someone else’s voice for a while.
Get some snacks
Keep snacking even though you ate a meal your mom would be proud of before you hit the road. Make sure your snacks are healthy, though. Remember the M&Ms? Sure, they taste better than a piece of fruit, but you don’t want to ride that sugar rollercoaster when driving long haul. Snack on something healthy instead, like a bag of almonds.
Do annoying things to yourself
Okay, I know, you’re thinking, “are you serious?” Yes, I am. Rub the roof of your mouth with your tongue, pinch your earlobes or your arm or leg, smack or tickle yourself, whatever it takes to chase away the sleepiness. Don’t hurt yourself, of course. Just do something that will irritate you out of your sleepy state.
Open your windows and let the oxygen flow!
This works particularly well if it’s toasty warm in your cab and cold outside. Like diving into cold water, cold air gives your system a temporary jolt, shocking your sense into alertness. Careful, though, this – and irritating yourself – only works temporarily, so you want to pull over at your next rest stop and take that power-nap.
Keep yourself hydrated and avoid caffeine
Dehydration is an immediate fatigue-causer, and don’t load up on coffee. Not only will the caffeine in coffee wear off, but caffeine is also a diuretic, which will make you pee more than the water you should be drinking and increase your dehydration.