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Many drivers fail to appreciate how truly exhausting a long-distance car trip can be on their bodies and minds. Falling asleep at the wheel is just as dangerous to other drivers as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are a number of ways to avoid driver fatigue, however, and it pays for anyone responsible for the safe transportation of others to consider any or all of them.
One of the best ways to avoid driver fatigue is to be as well-rested as possible before getting behind the wheel. As tempting as it may be to plan an overnight car trip to avoid traffic problems or gain a few more hours of vacation time, it may be better for a driver to do the bulk of the driving during normal waking hours. Getting up too early for a long drive could mean an inevitable drop in energy and attention span a few hours into the trip. To avoid fatigue, drivers should get as much sleep as possible before the trip and consider taking refreshing cat naps at rest areas or pull over after a few hours of driving to avoid highway hypnosis.
Another way to avoid driving fatigue is to share driving responsibilities with at least one other driver. If one driver is more comfortable driving in city traffic, the other driver may want to handle the highway driving while he or she rests. Some drivers are not comfortable riding as passengers, especially with inexperienced or unpredictable co-drivers, but they should still turn over the wheel periodically to avoid driver fatigue.
Some suggest a way to avoid driving fatigue is to consume significant amounts of stimulating beverages, such as strong coffee or energy drinks. The caffeine and other stimulants found in those beverages may help a driver feel more alert for a few hours, but there may also be a pronounced crash as the stimulants leave the driver's system. Caffeine may also be available in capsules sold as high-energy herbal supplements near the cash register of a convenience store or truck stop restaurant. Drivers trying to avoid driving fatigue should only use these stimulants in recommended dosages and only after considering other less invasive methods.
If the itinerary is not time-sensitive, a driver may avoid driver fatigue by dividing the trip into smaller pieces. A trip which ordinarily takes 12 hours of driving time to complete, for example, could be broken into two 6 hour segments. The driver or navigator could plan to stop for the night at an appropriate hotel after reaching a specific driving hour mark. Even if a driver feels rested enough to continue driving for a few more hours, taking a long break from the road could make for a more pleasant trip overall and help the driver avoid driver fatigue on an isolated stretch of highway during the darkest hours of the night.
On a really long road trip, I don't know that there's any way to completely avoid driver fatigue, but to combat sleepiness, I'll roll the window down and turn the radio way up. That usually keeps me fully awake.
If my husband and I are both too tired to drive, though, I'll look up the nearest town and we will stop for the night to sleep. As long as the hotel is reasonably decent, all we need is a bed for the night so we can sleep. It's worth the price of a hotel room to get to our destination safely, so we always build in a little extra into our budget to account for stopping if we really need to. It's been a good idea when we've made those marathon trips.
When I travel to the beach -- about a six-hour drive -- I want to get started either very, very early in the morning -- about 3 a.m. -- or start after rush hour.
My route goes through two fairly large cities, and the first one is a little over an hour away. Hitting town at 4 a.m. pretty much assures me I will get through town quickly, with no problems, and not much chance of running into a wreck. Then, I can stop for breakfast south of town and eat a nice, leisurely meal.
The part of the trip that is really tough to drive is the three hours or so south of the second big town. There's not much until you turn
off the Interstate to go to the beach area. It can be very monotonous. I always make a stop or two, just to stretch my legs, or switch drivers. That helps me wake up and get ready to get back in the car.
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