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Avoiding Tiredness When Driving

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 27 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Avoiding Tiredness When Driving

When you’re on a driving trip, whether it’s for business or pleasure, there’s no doubt you already a number of plans in place and times specified for where you’re meant to be. It’s all too easy to forget that driving can be extremely tiring, especially over long periods on roads you’re unfamiliar with. Many people keep pushing themselves to get to their next location within the time frame they’ve set, ignoring obvious signs of tiredness. It’s at this stage where accidents become extremely prevalent and you should learn how to avoid tiredness when driving to ensure you stay safe on the road.

Spotting the Signs of Tiredness When Driving

It’s easy to spot the signs of tiredness when you’re driving, but it’s up to you what to do from that point:

  • If you’re driving and you find yourself yawning a lot or having sore, heavy eyes that could easily close, it’s time to stop and take a break.
  • If you have difficulties with staying in your lane – you may find you’re drifting or having slower reaction times to changing lanes and overtaking other vehicles.
  • You may have difficulty remembering the last few miles and your mind will wander easy into daydreams or completely zoning out of being focused on the road. This of course can lead to variations in your driving speeds, and it’s at this point where you’re actually becoming a hazard on the road to not only yourself, but others. Your reaction times will be slower and you’ll find it far more difficult to recognise dangerous situations or hazards on the road around you.

High Risk Groups

Not having enough sleep is a dangerous condition to be driving in as your body will ultimately want to ‘catch up’ on this sleep at some point. There are a number of societal groups who may struggle to be alert during driving more than others, but don’t be fooled, sleep deprivation can happen to us all:

  • Shift Workers are a group who often have a variety of disrupted sleep patterns and night-workers especially may find it difficult to avoid driving while tired.
  • Anyone who has a sleep disorder is of course at a heightened risk of feeling sleepy while driving.
  • People between the ages of 18-25 can be an increased risk group also. This age group tend to study, work unusual hours, have varied sleep patterns due to late nights or spontaneous outings and so are at a higher risk as they don’t get as much sleep.
  • Parents of young babies or children are often woken in the night. If this is prolonged over a number of weeks then the effects will soon start to show.

If you fall into any of these categories and are planning to drive abroad, keep in mind that you should try and normalise your sleep patterns as much as possible so your body is alert and awake on unfamiliar roads.

Tips to Avoid Tiredness When Driving

Other than getting enough sleep before driving, there are a variety of tips that can help keep you alert on the road. Try to plan your trip to fit in with times that you’d normally be driving. If you never drive at night, don’t do that when travelling abroad. Your body won’t be used to it and the darkness can make your body clock start to slow down and feel like it wants to get some sleep. If you’ve been driving for some time without any breaks, aim to start taking breaks at least every two hours. Simply getting out of the car and walking around or having a refreshing drink can keep your mind active and your body awake.

Plan your long trips on days when you know you’ll have had plenty of rest. If you’re working and driving, try not to drive for too long after a hard days work. Your mind will be exhausted and won’t be alert enough to spot potential hazards on the road. If you have someone available to share the driving with you, make use of them.

Split the journey up and swap places every few hours, letting the other person get some sleep. Even a small power nap can make you feel refreshed and energised so use this if you can. Learn where the next rest stop will be and plan to stop there. There is nothing worse than driving past a rest stop only to realise the next one isn’t for a large number of miles. Use service stations, rest stops and other areas to rest when you can, especially if you intend to drive for a long time.

It’s very important to get plenty of rest before starting off on your trip. Get as much sleep as you can, plan your rest stops, share the driving and don’t rely on energy drinks to keep you awake. Know your own body and listen to what it’s telling you. It could save your life!

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