I sometimes wonder what life would be like if we weren’t so busy. Would we be bored or would we learn to become more relaxed? Whether you’re busy with your job, your family or your pastimes, it can take quite a toll on us and cause fatigue. If these activities also cause you to drive, what can you do to combat fatigued driving?
What does fatigued driving or drowsy driving do to us? When our brain is tired it stops us from making proper decisions. It’s late getting messages to our eyes, hands and feet. Think of how you act at home when you’re tired. You may not be thinking clearly and may forget to do things. Now imagine that in the vehicle. Too dangerous to even consider, yet many people ignore the symptoms.
We need to recognize the early signs of fatigue. If you’re having a difficult time keeping your eyes open, extremely low energy, yawning a lot, drifting in your lane or have very little focus it’s time to do something different. Recognizing many of these signs before getting into your vehicle is best, but during some longer drives these symptoms begin to appear while you’re already in motion. So what are the common things drivers do to help stay alert while driving?
Many drivers will drink strong coffee, blow cold air on their face, play loud music and try to have a diverse conversation to help keep them alert. It may work, but only for a very short period of time. The best solution is sleep. Find a safe place to pull over and rest. Find a parking lot, lock your doors and have that 15 to 20 minute nap. For many people, this little snooze refreshes them enough to become alert once again and become safe to drive. If you need more time than that, take it.
Now that’s all fine and dandy as a reactive solution, but let’s look at a proactive way to avoid fatigued driving altogether. Get plenty of rest before starting that long drive. Schedule breaks every couple of hours to allow you time to get out, stretch and perhaps take a washroom break. The best proactive solution is to share the driving with passengers, but do that before you get too tired. Avoid heavy meals before driving. Light snacks are better than a big meal. Apples are great to keep you alert and awake. And the last tip is to keep the temperature cool inside the vehicle. A very warm interior causes drowsiness.
I’m sure we all know stubborn drivers. They say they can handle while fatigued. Good drivers realize they can’t handle it. Having your eyes closed for just three seconds at 50 km/h (30 mph) means your vehicle travels roughly 40 metres. You’ll most likely pass through an intersection too and perhaps a stop sign or red light. I’m pretty certain you and your passengers deserve better. Take a break – stay awake.