The Holiday Season at The Kicker is Safety Season. Every Monday we’ll post about safety and include helpful information and tips to keep you and you’re family as safe as possible on the roads. If you’d like to find helpful links to all this information and more please check out our Safety Tab on thekickerblog.com (Drive Safe, Buying a Safe Car, After Accident Action Steps).
Advice to Young Drivers
Young drivers are perhaps more likely to push their luck, but they are certainly not alone in taking chances driving when they probably shouldn’t. The first reason is likely that we feel comfortable driving. We often drive the roads our routes we’re going to take and its not convenient to not drive home.
This time of year, in particular, people are driving tired. The days are short and we’re busy. People don’t sleep well with the sudden shift in temperature. Then add in the time change. The roads are filled with people who would probably admit that they’re not at their best…if they thought about it, which they aren’t.
Driving makes you drowsy.
The expanse of the open road. Mile after mile of nearly identical stretches of highway. The same song on the radio, again. Driving can make you tired for many reasons. Let’s examine a few:
Driving at night
This time of year we’re driving in the dark to and from work. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night to feel well-rested and function at their fullest. Even if you get that, if you got it at a time you’re not used to sleeping it’s not quality sleep. If you’re driving at a time you’d normally be asleep your circadian rhythms will try to put you to sleep when it’s dark out.1
Long drives across different time zones
We notice jet lag with air travel, but holiday road trips still drive across time zones which is what it takes to knock your body clock out of sync. This sort of tiredness is extra dangerous because we might guard against driving on no sleep, or driving more than ten hours in a day, but it’s possible to wake up fresh and be jet lagged a few hours later.
If there’s a chance you’ll get drowsy its a good idea to have another person their. Ideally this is someone you can trade off driving with, but even a non-driver can keep you engaged and help your brain stay active.
Good (or bad) vibrations
Some people generally get drowsy when driving, which is likely due to steady vibrations at low frequencies (according to RMIT in Australia2 ). If you are susceptible to this it can lull you into a state of relaxation within 15 minutes of steady driving. If you’re not normally cursed with this problem, you may experience it when other factors are present, like lack of sleep, or when taking a long road trip.
To combat the potential for drowsy driving, here are a few tips to share with your truck drivers to help them stay alert and focused on the road ahead.
Ways to stay awake while driving
1. Stay hydrated – don’t only drink caffeine
While downing a cup of coffee or an energy drink may help you stay awake while driving for a short distance, over long trips, drinking plenty of water helps keep your body temperature cool and prevent you from feeling sluggish and drowsy.
2. Pack healthy snacks
We’re not just being picky, candy bars, fast food and convenience store chips can make you spike and crash. Instead, think protein. (Almonds, sunflower seeds, and fruit.) Or pull over occasionally for a healthy meal that includes complex carbohydrates.
3. Chew gum
Studies show chewing gum can help keep your brain active, although the exact mechanism for this is not clear. A study in 2012 noted that chewing gum heightened subjects’ heart rates and showed noticeable improvements in vigilance.3 Grab the sugarless variety and you can even help prevent cavities.
Listening to stand-up comedy may help keep your brain focused and eyes on the road. Plus laughing can’t hurt. Can’t stand stand stand-up comedy? Try an audiobook or a podcast to keep your mind engaged during a long drive.
5. Smell essential oils
While this may sound out of the ordinary, a quick sniff of an invigorating oil like peppermint, grapefruit or even eucalyptus will help stimulate the brain’s nervous system to keep you alert without the caffeine or sugar rush & and it won’t make you need to stop and pee.
6. Turn on that AC or roll down your window
Keeping the cold air flowing in your vehicle can help you from becoming too comfortable and nodding off.
7. Moisturize those eyes
Staring at the road for long periods of time causes you to forget to blink! Keep eye drops on hand for when your eyes start to feel even the slightest bit dry. If you’re a contact lens wearer, always pack an extra pair in case you need to make a quick change.
This is where a great playlist comes in handy. Don’t just include songs that pump you up. Include ones you know you can karaoke to. Here’s a link to a road trip mix the Kicker compiled.
9. Catch your Zs
It may seem obvious but get 7 and 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep the night before a holiday road trip.4 With all the planning for a trip its a discipline to get to bed on time the night before. It’s better to arrive late than not arrive at all. This gives your body and mind a chance to repair itself and unwind so you fall into a deep, peaceful sleep.
10. Practice positivism
Studies have shown that people who approach life with a ‘glass half full’ mentality often run down slower than pessimists.5 A podcast from a motivational speaker might get you back on track.
When all else fails – see a doctor!
If you often find yourself nodding off at the wheel, see a doctor. You could have a condition that requires attention. Micro-napping can be a symptom of sleep apnea which is a condition the severely impacts your health when not treated. Narcolepsy is another concern.
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22061430 (2011) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938414002868?via%3Dihub (2012)