Tips to Stay Awake While Driving

Most methods for combatting sleepiness do not work.

Mile after mile of interstate driving can takes its toll on any driver. Including at night and especially during the early hours of the morning.

A feeling of sleepiness begins to creep in and before you know it your head is moving forward and your arms are relaxing. At this point you are in danger of losing control of your car with deadly results just moments away.

Fortunately, your head snaps back just as your car begins to shift lanes, enabling you to regain control of the vehicle and of your senses.

Drowsy Driving Survey

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that between 2.2 and 2.6 percent of all fatal accidents from 2005 through 2009 were the result of drowsy driving. In 2009 alone, approximately 30,000 people were injured in accidents involving drowsy driving. Another 730 people lost their lives.

The likelihood of such accidents increases over the summer as more people take to the roads. A recent survey conducted by DMEautomotive (DMEa) of 2,000 car owners found that 53 percent of respondents expect to take a road trip this summer with many planning to drive at least seven hours each day.

DMEa is an automotive marketing company that serves automobile dealerships and aftermarket companies.

Methods for Combatting Sleepiness

sleepy woman driver

The DMEa survey asked respondents about the methods they used to tackle drowsy driving and found that combatting those feelings with caffeinated beverages, including coffee, is the top method for battling sleepiness while driving. Indeed, some 53 percent of respondents said that they drink a caffeinated beverage to ward off sleepiness.

Tired drivers often choose multiple responses when overtaken by sleepiness. Some 42 percent open a window or a sunroof when tired with nearly just as many choosing to switch drivers. Just over one-third battle fatigue by pulling over and exercising or stretching; a similar number of people inclined to turn up the audio system to help keep them awake.

Only 23 percent pursue an effective response as in pulling off the road to take a nap. Other methods for combating fatigue include eating, singing, listening to talk radio, talking to themselves, slapping their faces, exercising or stretching while driving, smoking or splashing water on their faces.

Ineffective Responses to Sleepiness

Most of the methods, however, do not work. At least not for the long term. Each of the leading methods may provide a temporary solution, but apart from switching drivers or pulling over and taking a nap, those feelings of sleepiness may return.

Mary Sheridan, Director of Research and Analytics for DMEautomotive noted, “This survey reveals a big problem: when people get sleepy on the road, too many take measures that simply don’t work.

Most of us do ineffective things like stopping for that third triple-shot cappuccino or slapping water on our face just to keep going. As drivers, we need to heed our drowsiness: and stop and sleep, or let a rested person drive.”

Pull Over and Take a Nap

The DMEa survey also looked at the driving behavior of drivers under 35 years old. They are more likely to be involved in drowsy driving crashes than older drivers and tend to combat their drowsiness with ineffective methods in greater numbers.

Those methods have been disproven through medical and authoritative evidence aggregated by DMEa. For instance, drinking caffeine does not help immediately. Indeed, it takes caffeine 30 minutes to enter the bloodstream after it has been consumed. Instead of drinking coffee, drivers would realize a beneficial energy boost simply by pulling over and napping for 30 minutes.

Opening windows or the sun roof, turning up the air conditioner, or listening to loud music provides no real benefit. Switching drivers is an effective response, but only if the new driver is rested.

Driving no more than two hours before taking a break, napping, and hitting the road with at least seven hours sleep can help combat sleepiness. Even so, driving between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. should be avoided, the time when sleepiness is most likely to overtake you.

Matthew Keegan
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