Safe driving requires maximum concentration. Even the most experienced driver can fall into the trap of driving like an automaton and failing to register what is going on around them. Throw a little drowsiness into the mix and you have a potentially lethal combination. It is vitally important for drivers to stay wide awake and alert whenever they are behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Here are some tips which should help, firstly for staying awake, and secondly for staying alert.
Ten tips for staying awake while driving
- Don’t start a long journey when you are tired.
- Avoid driving at night.
- Keep the car interior cool in summer, not overheated in winter.
- Avoid alcohol when driving. Alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant. It will make you drowsy.
- Share the driving with someone else, if possible.
- Take frequent stops to rest.
- Avoid heavy meals when driving. Have frequent light snacks instead.
- Listen to stimulating music, or comedy, or a recording of an interesting book.
- If necessary, drink coffee or energy boosting beverages.
- If you start to feel drowsy, park your car in a safe place and take a power nap.
However, merely staying awake is not enough. Many highway accidents are the result of wandering attention. Good drivers stay alert to avoid mistakes themselves and to react quickly to errors made by other road users. At high speed, a delayed reaction can mean the difference between life and death. Even a low velocity accident can ruin your day. Many of the tips for staying awake also apply to maintaining maximum alertness, but here are some extra points to keep in mind.
Ten tips for staying alert while driving
- Keep cell phone use to a minimum when you are driving, even if you have a hands-free system, and pull over if you need to text.
- Make sure children travel in approved child restraints and have something to keep them occupied so they won’t distract you.
- Watch out for speed limit changes and traffic signals.
- Plan your route ahead of time and watch out for signs to your destination.
- Make full use of in-car navigation/GPS systems.
- Be aware of what other vehicles are doing: changing speeds, road position, any erratic behavior.
- Check your rear vision mirrors regularly.
- Listen to traffic updates on the radio when available.
- Engage in conversation with passengers, but keep your eyes on the road and avoid heated discussions.
- Limit use of cruise control (autocruise) unless you are feeling particularly wide awake and energetic.
Motor vehicles are not just a convenient way of traveling. They are also a piece of complex, heavy and potentially lethal machinery. A drowsy person with wandering attention would not be allowed to operate a dangerous piece of equipment in a factory. Stay awake and alert when you put yourself behind the wheel, for the sake of your passengers, for other road users, and most of all for yourself.