Long Distance Driving – Expert Tips To Stay Awake & Safe
Sleep is the best meditation. Unless you are driving. Then there’s nothing Zen about it!
Most journeys on the Little Red Dot take less than than an hour, so we are less used to long distance driving. In countries like Malaysia, highway driving is monotonous and spending many hours behind the wheel puts a tremendous strain on the driver.
When you are driving long distance, at night, or with jetlag, you can be miles from the comfort of your bed. There’s a strong temptation to keep going. It seems counter-intuitive to take a break. We may resort to playing loud music or winding the windows down. But sleep is a powerful chemical and biological drive,
“Research suggests that a chemical called adenosine builds up in our blood while we are awake and causes drowsiness.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
What Are The Risks?
Driving is a complex activity, which involves regular, split second decisions. Even if you’re concentrating on staying awake, studies show that excessive sleepiness decreases judgment and increases lapses in attention. This, coupled with slow reaction time, make driving very dangerous.
Too Tired To Drive? – Signs To Look For
Key signs that it’s time to pull over and take a break are -
- Difficulty in focusing, heavy eyelids, or frequent blinking
- Daydreaming, zoning out
- Feeling restless, light headed or irritable
- Trouble remembering the last few minutes driven
- Missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane or tailgating
What Should I Do?
Experts agree that you should not start a long journey if you are tired, or drive for more than 8 hours a day. If you have to drive long distances -
- Plan your journey with breaks every two to three hours, including an overnight stay if necessary. Especially important if you're not used to long distance driving.
- Don’t drink! Even a small amount of alcohol enhances drowsiness.
- Don’t drive between midnight and 6am. This is a time when sleepiness is most intense because of your body’s biological rhythm.
- The most effective ways to counter sleepiness is to invest in a short nap of at least 15 minutes. Stop in a safe place away from moving traffic. Do not stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Check for parking restrictions.
- After your nap, drink a cup of caffeinated coffee - be aware that the effects of caffeine wear off after a few hours.
- Don’t rush. It’s better to arrive at your destination safe than driving stressed because of time.
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