Staying alert as you drive is vital to the safety of you and your fellow travelers. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that there are 100,000 car crashes annually involving drowsy driving. To avoid being in one of these incidents, there are simple measures you can take.
The basic way to counter weary driving is a simple one: get enough sleep. Most people require an average of eight hours' sleep to function at their optimum, but it varies according to the individual. You should know how much sleep you need and obtain that amount before getting behind the wheel. A lack of sleep can result in a delayed reaction time and an impaired judgment as you drive. You should also drive when you are most vigorous and park the car during your lethargic time of day.
Traveling with someone who can share the driving responsibilities and help you stay awake will make your travels go more smoothly and safely. Include regular stops every two hours-even if you are not feeling tired-to stretch, exercise, switch drivers or take a short nap. These stops will be invigorating and give you an opportunity to see the sights.
When you become tired while driving, pull over and heed your body's call to rest. Some signs that you need to stop include losing time, drifting between lanes, repeated yawning, difficulty focusing, tailgating or missing exits. If other cars on the road are reacting negatively to your driving, you need to assess your driving abilities immediately.
There are many over-the-counter and herbal remedies to increase mental and physical alertness, but these are temporary fixes for the drowsy symptoms that will recur. When you begin to rely on tricks such as caffeine or opening your window to stay awake, it is time to take a break. Also drink plenty of water while you travel, as a dehydrated person is likely to experience confusion or become disoriented.
Staying alert while you drive is an important part of avoiding accidents. Dozing at the wheel is an avoidable event, one hinging on listening to your body's signals.
by Carrie Kasperick
Photo credit: Automakers