If you’ve ever been down those long, winding roads for more than a few hours, then you probably know how easy it is to lose concentration, or even fall asleep behind the wheel. Drowsy driving or driving inattentively is a leading cause of death and injury across the globe. In the United States, an estimated 6,000 fatalities can be attributed to drowsy driving annually, with up to 44,000 injuries being reported in 2013.
Truck driving is a significant contributor to injury and death on the road, largely due to the long hours drivers spend on the road. Large trucks only account for 4% of registered vehicles in the U.S., but are responsible for over 9% of reported fatalities from crashes.
Fatigue, sleepiness, or other distractions play important roles in accidents. Therefore, it is always beneficial to stay alert and focused while driving to prevent some of these accidents. In this post, we share critical tips for staying alert – and alive – on the road.
1. Get Adequate Sleep Before a Long Drive
An adult needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night for normal functioning. This is especially important for someone hoping to go for several hours behind the wheel. When your brain is well-rested, you are more likely to maintain focus and attention on the road without the risk of dozing off on long, boring drives.
If for some reason you can’t get enough nocturnal sleep and still must drive, take a short nap just before you get on the road. If you happen to feel sleepy during the drive, pull over in a safe location and take a 20-minute nap. Give yourself at least 15 minutes after the nap to ensure you are fully awake before getting back on the road.
2. Avoid Alcohol
Driving while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug is an obvious no-no on any road around the world. However, even small amounts of alcohol within legal limits can induce drowsiness, so ensure you keep away from alcohol or similar drugs while driving.
3. Avoid Driving Between 12am and 6am
Your biological clock sets nap-time anywhere from 10am on. During this time, your brain slowly prepares for eventual shutdown, and by 12 am, most people normally feel too sleepy to stay awake – at least productively. If you can, avoid being behind the wheel during this time. If you must, ensure you make regular stops and take short naps if you feel sleepy during a long haul.
4. Let the Air In
If your car or truck cab is particularly warm, it might be a good idea to let some oxygen and cool air in. Cold air jolts your system temporarily and helps you stay awake and alert. This isn’t a permanent trick, however, and you will have to pull over at the next rest stop for some rest if you are super sleepy.
5. Anti-Sleep Apps
Every day, technology is helping improve safety on the road. If you often have to fight drowsiness on long drives, there are a couple of useful apps you can use to help you stay alert. Anti Drowse is an anti-sleep app that sets off your phone’s alarm randomly during your trip, helping to jolt you into alertness. Driver Alarm can differentiate between your open and closed eyelids and sets off an alarm if you fall asleep.
Other cool anti-sleep apps include Anti-Sleep Pilot, Coffeewake, Stay Awake Pro, and Drive Awake, all which can help keep you alert on long drives.
6. Watch what you Eat
Your worst enemy on the road is junk food. High amounts of sugar and salt will give you a temporary energy high, but eventually make you tired. Eat healthy proteins and complex carbohydrates for more stamina and energy to keep you awake behind the wheel. Remember to stock up on vitamins for energy, too. If you must snack along the way, make sure it’s something healthy, like almonds or related snacks.
Drink water for hydration and avoid coffee if you can. Caffeine is a notorious diuretic, which will make you dehydrated and more likely to get fatigued. Plus, the effects of caffeine tend to wear off, leaving you feeling even more tired and fatigued than before.
There are a million things you can do to stay alert during long drives, including pinching or slapping yourself when you get sleepy. However, nothing can replace a good nap and healthy meals to help keep you alert behind the wheel.
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