If you’ve ever taken a road trip, you likely know that long drives can be mentally and physically exhausting. Safe drivers must be mindful of other drivers and self-aware of their energy levels. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 100,000 police-reported crashes occur yearly due to drowsy driving, resulting in 50,000 injuries and almost 800 deaths.
Sadly, a majority of these accidents are easily avoidable.
Today, we’re sharing five things you can do to stay awake during exhausting drives. Buckle up, and let’s get started!
What Are Signs of Drowsy Driving?
Drowsiness while driving can sneak up on you. However, there are several warning signs to watch for, whether you’re the driver or passenger. The most common warning sign is yawning or blinking frequently. Both actions will increase in frequency the more exhausted a driver becomes. If you notice increased yawning or blinking, it’s best to start looking for a safe place to stop.
Another standard indicator of drowsy driving is drifting from your lane. Similar to drunk driving, your reaction time will slow down significantly. This results in delayed responses and potentially overcorrecting. Drifting out of your lane can be hazardous, especially when there are other drivers on the road or there isn’t much of a shoulder on the side.
If you’re drifting out of your lane or hitting the rumble strips on the side of the road, you need to stop driving immediately. Find a rest stop or other convenient location to take a nap.
Many drowsy drivers experience highway hypnosis, which is a comatose-like state while driving. You may have difficulty remembering the last few miles or even miss your exit. Highway hypnosis can be extremely risky, and you should take action immediately if you experience it.
Pro Tip: Stay alert when driving by knowing What Exactly Highway Hypnosis Is.
Is Drowsy Driving Worse Than Drunk Driving?
While we often hear about the dangers of drunk driving, drowsy driving doesn’t often get the same attention. However, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being awake for 18 hours or more is like having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%.
When you’ve been up for 24 hours or more, the BAC equivalent is 0.10%. So being up for 24 hours or more exceeds the BAC limit of 0.08% in most states. Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as hitting the road after drinking too much.
Where Do Most Drowsy Driving Accidents Occur?
The NHTSA has done extensive research on drowsy driving. Their study found that most drowsy driving accidents occur on rural roads and highways between midnight and 6:00 AM. Many are single-passenger accidents where the driver dozes off long enough that they cannot apply the brakes before colliding with a tree, guardrail, or other obstacles.
5 Ways to Stay Awake on Long Drives
We’ve compiled some tips for drivers to stay awake during extended drives. We want you to keep safe during your adventures and hope that you’ll give these a try the next time you’re driving and feel like you’re tiring. Let’s take a look!
Drive With a Partner
According to the NHTSA, drowsy driving accidents are commonly single-driver accidents. Driving with a partner can be highly beneficial in fending off exhaustion. Simply engaging in a conversation with the passenger can be enough to keep your mind alert while driving.
Having a partner in the vehicle can also help you be aware of instances where you might drift back and forth or out of your lane. Because you control the steering wheel, you may not notice the swaying like a passenger.
Listen to Music
Another way to stay awake is to listen to music. Singing along with your favorite playlist can keep your mind alert. If you’re anticipating a long drive, create a playlist of your favorite high-energy songs. You’ll want to avoid soft, classical music that could cause you to relax and become more tired.
Turning up the volume can also help you stay awake. Loud noises can make it very difficult to fall asleep or doze off while driving. So crank up those tunes to 10 and stay alert and safe!
Eating is an excellent way to stay awake during a long drive. Certain foods are better than others for remaining awake. You may think consuming many high-sugar foods and beverages is a good idea. However, while sugary foods can give you a short-term energy boost, the energy crash after the sugar wears off will leave you wearier. We recommend stocking up on healthy snacks with natural or low sugars.
Some of the best road trip snacks are fruits and veggies. Many drivers find that the constant chewing action when chewing gum helps keep them alert while driving. Sunflower seeds or foods that involve much chewing with minimal sugar will be the best options.
Pro Tip: Play a game to stay alert while on the road. Learn the rules of the License Plate Game.
Keep It Cool
If you’re having difficulty staying awake, you want to make yourself as uncomfortable as possible. Cranking the air conditioner and cooling your vehicle’s interior can keep you awake. The colder you can get it, the better. You may be shivering, but it’ll likely keep you alert.
Roll down your windows if keeping your vehicle cool isn’t doing the trick. This will pump in a large amount of fresh air, and the noise and motion of the air can help keep you aware. You can start with a small crack and continue to lower the window if you need more fresh air.
Pull Over When Needed
If you see a safe parking place, it may be best to pull over. Pulling over at a rest stop can allow you to stretch your legs, use the restroom, or even take a walk. Getting your blood pumping and moving can help you stay awake and increase your safety. However, if you have several hours left on your long drive, it may be best to take a quick nap.
If where you’re stopping has a restroom or showering facilities, you may want to use them to freshen up. Washing your face or taking a shower can wake you up and help you safely reach your destination.
Stay Safe and Alert When Driving
It can be tempting to push your safety limits on an extended drive. It’s easy to overestimate your ability to drive long distances and underestimate the effects of drowsy driving. Being as safe as possible is essential to ensuring you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road arrive safely.
Don’t only use one of these tips for staying awake; use all of them. Most of the time, just using one isn’t going to do the trick. Using as many as possible will give you the best shot of fighting drowsy driving and staying awake.
How do you plan for extended driving on road trips?
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