With summer in full swing, you may be thinking about taking a road trip. If you plan to drive hundreds of miles, though, you must be certain you get sufficient rest. Even if you never embark on cross-country treks, committing to driving refreshed is essential. If you drive drowsy, you may sustain a serious injury or die in a motor vehicle accident.
The drowsy driving statistics are, well, eye-opening. In fact, if you drive after being awake for 20 hours, you may experience the same slow reflexes and response times as a drunk driver. Fatigued driving also increases your odds of having an automobile accident by as much as 300%. Try these five techniques to help stay awake behind the wheel:
1. Take passengers with you
Staying awake by yourself is challenging. If you have hundreds or thousands of miles to go, consider taking passengers with you. Not only can they help keep you awake, but they can also monitor your fatigue and encourage you to rest. Ideally, take turns driving.
2. Sleep well before your trip
Before you climb behind the wheel of your car, truck or SUV, try to get a full night’s sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says adults need at least 7 hours of sleep and teens need at least 8 hours. For each hour of sleep deprivation, the odds of falling asleep at the wheel increase exponentially. And the body does not fully “catch up” or “store sleep” by sleeping extra hours on the weekend.
3. Be careful with caffeine
Coffee, cola, energy drinks and other caffeinated products may give you an energy boost. They are not, however, a long-term solution for staying awake behind the wheel. On the contrary, you may eventually “crash” once the caffeination wears off.
4. Drive during the day
Human beings have a natural circadian rhythm that tells you to sleep when it gets dark. Accordingly, you are most likely to feel drowsy when driving from midnight to 6 a.m. The greatest danger of falling asleep at the wheel is 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.
However, during daylight hours driver alertness dips notably in the 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. range. Schedule a rest break or short “siesta” during that the early afternoon lull if you will be driving all day.
5. Ask for help
After a night of drinking on the town, you likely would not think twice about relying on a designated driver to get you home. Use that same approach when it comes to drowsy driving. If you are too tired to operate your vehicle safely, ask a friend to drive or call a cab.
If you want to stay safe on Florida’s roadways, you must commit never to driving while drowsy. By practicing some safety techniques, you can reach your destination without finding yourself in an automobile crash.