Road trips can be monotonous, especially interstate travel where there are many miles between exits. Reduce fatigue on long or short trips when stopping is not an option. Long-distance trips are fun when the family is on vacation, but hours behind the wheel can take a toll on the driver. Business professionals face similar problems when traveling from town to town. Road trips can be monotonous and exhausting, but it’s not always convenient to stop and rest.
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The best tips to stay alert while driving
Whether the drive is across town or a long-distance trip, experienced drivers know how to recognize fatigue in its earliest stages and understand the importance of intervention.
Conditions that Accelerate Driver Fatigue
Most any situation can cause fatigue if a driver is exposed to the condition long enough. Ideal driving conditions may allow the motorist to stay alert longer, but an energy drain is bound to take hold sooner or later. Shown here are examples of driving conditions that accelerate drowsiness and fatigue.
A few hours of driving in the rain or fog can dampen a driver’s senses. Bright sunlight is just as damaging, causing headache, tension, and restricted vision from glare.
Night driving quickly causes fatigue, especially for inexperienced drivers and the elderly who may have difficulty seeing. The situation is often compounded by blinding headlight glare from oncoming traffic and/or a limited visual field.
Long Hours on the Road.
Traveling for hours without a break results in drowsiness and fatigue.
Driving in Heavy Traffic.
Hurricane evacuations can tie up evacuation routes for hours. Drivers already stressed quickly become tired and less alert to road hazards. On a lesser scale, late afternoon rush hour traffic adds to driver stress, reducing alertness.
Repeatedly Driving the Same Route.
Covering the same ground day after day is monotonous and boring, and over time causes one to become less alert to the surroundings.
Eating a Heavy Meal before Driving.
Long trip or short, eating a heavy meal tends to make one feel sleepy. Driving in a comfortable vehicle tends to compound the problem.
Lack of Sleep.
The person who has not had enough sleep before getting on the road risks extreme fatigue when driving for long periods of time.
Steps Drivers Can Take to Stay Alert
Pulling off the road to rest is not always an option when traveling. Try one or all of the quick fixes listed here to combat fatigue while driving. These remedies are not intended to replace sleep, but they may help a motorist to safely reach his desired destination.
- Change the seating position to aid circulation and move muscles.
- Turn on the radio or other audio preference to stimulate the mind.
- Engage in conversation or have a passenger talk or read aloud to stir thoughts and attention.
- Suck on a mint. Amy Capetta, in a submission to Woman’s Day Magazine (April 2008) “Stay Alert Behind the Wheel” writes, “Researchers at West Virginia’s Wheeling Jesuit University found that the scents of peppermint and cinnamon boost alertness while cutting fatigue in drivers.”
- Turn on the AC, adjust mirrors, lower the windows for fresh air, or reposition the hands on the steering wheel to change the immediate environment.
- Recite a monologue or sing to increase mental alertness.
- Grab a cup of coffee or a cup of crushed ice.
- Chewing gum also stimulates facial muscles, increasing alertness.
- Engage in simple deep-breathing exercises. Oxygen stimulates the brain, eliminating the foggy feeling that comes with being tired.
Lack of sleep is a major cause of car accidents. Fatigue, sudden drowsiness, and sleep deprivation all put a driver at an increased risk of having a collision. Nothing replaces sleep when it comes to eliminating fatigue, but a few simple changes to posture and environment provide temporary relief until one can reach a suitable place to stop and rest.
The tips provided in this article are meant to provide temporary relief from sleepiness while driving. Factors that affect alertness include, but are not limited to, night driving, weather conditions, and the amount of food consumed before getting behind the wheel. Defensive drivers not only pay attention to road conditions, but they also stay aware of their own limitations for the safety of everyone concerned. Recognizing dangerous conditions such as fatigue and taking action to remedy the situation helps one stay safe on the road.