Many people drive for miles and miles, every single day. In some cases, it might even be part of your job to drive long distances, or you might have family and friends living far away, meaning that cross-country trips are a regular part of your routine. In any case, even if you drive for hours and hours and consider yourself a highly experienced motorist, you have to remember the risks you face every time you take to the road.
Statistics show that there are approximately six million auto accidents in the US every single year, and they aren’t always caused by reckless drivers or bad weather conditions. They can easily be caused by driver fatigue as well, in which drivers allow themselves or force themselves to keep on rolling, even as they start to feel tired and lose focus.
Signs of fatigue or tiredness
- Sore or heavy eyes
- Slower reaction times
- Finding you’re daydreaming and not concentrating on your driving
- Driving speed creeps up or down
- Impaired driving performance such as poor gear changes
- Stiffness and cramps
- Loss of motivation
- Microsleeps which can be as little as a few seconds, your head may nod and then jerk to wake you up.
Experts estimate that around 100,000 accidents each year are caused by driver fatigue, leading to a shocking toll of deaths and injuries that could so easily have been avoided. So, if you’re someone who often has to drive long distances, travel through the night, or make the same journey repeatedly and could be at risk of losing focus or getting tired, here are some useful tips to keep in mind to help you stay safe.
Get Better Sleep
As the name implies, driver fatigue is all about tiredness, so a big part of making sure you aren’t affected by it is to try and get better quality sleep each night. There are many different ways you can do this, from setting up a sleep schedule to investing in a better mattress or minimizing your screen time before going to bed.
Experts recommend that we all get between seven and nine hours of sleep on a nightly basis. Depending on your own situation and work-life balance, this might seem like a challenge, but it’s important to try and do whatever you can to hit that target. Following a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help you sleep better, or you may need medical or psychological assistance from a professional.
It may not seem like a big deal to get a few hours less than you should each night. However, you could be setting yourself up for some serious problems if you don’t start prioritizing your nighttime routine. You cannot overlook the dangers of not getting enough sleep in long run.
Tips to beat driver fatigue
The most common and critical way to address fatigue is by sleeping. Make a choice not to drive when tired or follow these guidelines to prevent fatigue:
- Get a good night’s sleep before heading off on a long trip
- Don’t travel for more than eight to ten hours a day
- Take regular breaks – at least every two hours
- Share the driving wherever possible
- Don’t drink alcohol before your trip. Even a small amount can significantly contribute to driver fatigue
- Don’t travel at times when you’d usually be sleeping
- Take a 15 minute powernap if you feel yourself becoming drowsy
Stay Energized and Hydrated
Another useful tip to avoid driver fatigue or at least minimize the chances of falling victim to it is to make sure you remain energized and hydrated throughout the day. We don’t recommend snacking or trying to drink anything while you drive, but you should stop safely every now and then to eat something healthy and have a drink to give your body the fuel it needs to continue.
The foods you choose to eat can make a real difference to how tired you feel during the day, which is why it’s so important to think carefully about your daily diet and the foods you choose to eat. Getting plenty of veggies, lean meats, and mineral-rich foods will improve your focus loves, and driving snacks like granola bars and trail mix are great for keeping energy levels high.
Always Read the Label
One aspect that is so often overlooked when it comes to driver fatigue is that your feelings or drowsiness or tiredness could actually be caused by a medicine or drug you’ve been taking. People often forget that over-the-counter and prescription medications can come with a range of side effects, with drowsiness being a common example.
Make sure you always read the label of any medicines you’re taking and be careful when taking any that list ‘drowsiness’ as a possible side effect before driving. It’s often recommended to first try taking a new medicine in the comfort of your own home and watching to see if it has any side effects on your body, rather than trying something new right before driving or working.
Of course, one of the most obvious and useful tips we can provide to minimize the risk of driver fatigue is to simply take breaks now and then. In some cases, if you’re driving all through the night or traveling a very long distance, it’s only natural that you may start to feel tired and worn out as the hours go by.
Don’t force yourself to continue if you feel your eyes start to close or notice your focus levels slipping. Instead, take the time to pull over safely at a rest stop and take some time there to eat, drink, stretch your legs, use the restroom, and so on. It’s much better to arrive at your destination safely a little later than run the risk of getting in an accident.
Drowsy driving causes countless accidents every year. Don’t let yourself become another one of those statistics and make sure to keep these tips in mind whenever you head off on a long journey.