According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), falling asleep while driving causes up to 6,000 fatalities in the U.S. each year. While everyone has bad days with little rest from time to time, don’t risk lives by climbing into the driver’s seat drowsy. If long-distance driving is your job, you may not have a choice, but it’s wise to recognize the difference between being slightly tired and too exhausted to make quick decisions. If you’re so fatigued that your response time is slower than normal, it’s not worth risking your lives or the lives of others by getting behind the wheel, even if it jeopardizes your job. Here are tips for staying awake and safe when you’re driving.
How to stay awake while driving
If you absolutely must drive after a restless night, take precautions to stay awake before you get behind the wheel.
Step 1: Assess if driving is truly necessary. Although you may not think straight if excessively tired, take a moment to consider if driving in a drowsy condition is really worth the risk.
You could always call in sick or late to work, and rescheduling plans is often an option. If on a long drive, pull over to nap or ask a passenger to take over if possible.
Step 2: Turn to caffeine. A cup of coffee could provide just the jolt you need to drive a short distance safely.
Be aware that this is a temporary solution, and stop the car if you notice the caffeine wearing off and you have difficulty keeping your eyes open.
Step 3: Eat a small snack. Like caffeine, a small snack of 100 to 200 calories can provide a burst of energy without making you feel more sluggish.
Stay away from purely sugary snacks that will cause an energy crash in a short while, and opt for protein or slow-digesting carbohydrates.
Step 4: Engage the senses. You will feel more alert with the more senses you can engage while driving. Turn up the radio or talk with a passenger. Roll down the window to feel a cool, invigorating breeze.
- Warning: Be aware that drinking alcohol or taking certain medications before driving can increase your feelings of drowsiness. Always refrain from alcoholic beverages before a drive, and check medication labels for side effect warnings before making a poor decision to drive under the influence.
If you’re asking yourself the question of how to stay awake while driving, chances are that it’s a risk you shouldn’t take. Strongly consider getting rest before your drive because even a short nap could mean the difference between arriving at your destination safely and making a costly and potentially fatal mistake.