You are all about safety. You made sure to purchase the vehicle with side-impact airbags, installed an after-market back-up camera for the small parking lots, don’t drink and drive, and wouldn’t dream of pulling out your smartphone to respond to a text while you’re driving. But there’s one thing you probably didn’t think of – the risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
In our constantly-on-the-go society, many of us are running on fumes by the end of the day. Up in the morning for an early run, getting the kids off to school and going to work, meeting friends out for dinner followed by a night on the town – we can end up heading home being more tired than we think and putting our lives and the lives of other drivers and pedestrians at risk. Your backup camera system might alert you when an object moves into your path while backing up at Walmart, it just can’t alert you when you doze off behind the wheel.
The National Sleep Foundation reports 37 percent of drivers in the United States have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel. Out of that number, 13 percent of them say they’ve done this consistently, at least once per month. It is just as dangerous as drinking in terms of statistics, but it can be prevented.
Signs You Might Be Tired
If you’re noticing an excessive number of yawns, experiencing the sensation you’re nodding off, drifting into the opposing lane ever so slightly, blinking a lot, or feel like you’re becoming hypnotized by the lines on the road, you might be close to dozing off and should pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so.
How To Prevent It
You know when you’ve reached the point of no return – that state-of-being that is so close to letting sleep win out but struggling to keep it together – and should pull over and find a place to catch a quick nap. Be sure to set an alarm on your phone if you have somewhere to be! Before you even get to this point, you can win the battle to stay alert in very simple ways. You can:
- Roll down the windows – The blast of cooler air and the breeze coming in through the window can revive you for a time, especially the crisp air of fall and the bitterly cold air of winter. While it’s waking effect won’t last forever, you will be able to get a bit further in your travels before having to pull over.
- Turn up the tunes. Cranking up the volume on your car stereo is a great way to stay alert, but again, just for a time. If you’re tired enough, you’ll sleep through just about anything! And skip the slow jams. Opt for rock and roll tunes and some pop. The steady, thumping beat of that kind of music can be hypnotizing, so be careful!
- Get your beauty rest. If this is a planned outing, get as much sleep as possible the night before and eat nutritiously. If it’s a late-night outing, try to catch a nap before you head out to recharge your batteries.
- Stretch your legs. Sometimes, stopping for a few minutes to get out and stretch gets the system rejuvenated to get to where you need to go in a more alert fashion. Find a parking lot or convenience store, or any well-lit location where it is safe to get out and stretch. Do a few jumping jacks.
- Grab a snack. While you’re stretching out your legs at the convenience store, you can run inside to pick up a quick snack. While you think a candy bar would be the ideal snack because of the sugar rush it provides, you’ll crash hard – so avoid sugary treats at all costs. Instead, opt for healthier options like almonds, which can provide the protein-based energy to fuel you instead of messing with your blood sugar levels in an intense manner.
A Note On Long-Distance Traveling
If you can, practice the buddy system when going on long car drives. In this way, you’ll get to your destination without disrupting your schedule with unplanned stops while eliminating the problem of getting drowsy behind the wheel at the same time. One driver can take over for the other when they get tired, assuring that there is always a fresh, alert driver behind the wheel the entire trip.
As long as you are mindful of your state-of-mind behind the wheel, you can ensure that you make it safely and as alert as possible to all of your destinations.