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Alert Driving Fatigue Focus Productivity Safety Staying Awake Tiredness

How To Stay Awake While Driving

Stay Awake, Stay Alert

V-CAF, The App, Can Help

Most of us have to commute to work daily. In America, 76% of us drive to work. Worldwide, commute times are getting longer:

Commute_full_list
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In a study of UK drivers in 1997, 29% of drivers who took part in the study admitted to almost falling asleep at the wheel.
Maycock, G. “Sleepiness and driving: The experience of U.K. car drivers.” Accident Analysis & Prevention 29.4 (1997): 453-462.

Whilst a later study by the National Sleep Foundation found that more than 37% of American drivers admitted to the same thing.
National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America

With average commute times getting longer what can concerned drivers do to stay awake whilst driving?

How To Stay Awake While Driving
Photo by Zeus @zeus1007 on Unsplash

Why Are We Driving Tired?

We have never been as free as we are now to do so much. Computers and new work processes have made us increase productivity, but this has come at a cost.

Being more efficient has raised the bar on what is expected of us and to make up the shortfall we work harder than ever.

In the UK drivers’ study, when asked what caused them to fall asleep at the wheel, the most common reason was a “Long working day or physical or mental exhaustion”.

Another cited reason and contributing factor are the rise in people reporting sleep disorders and people going to bed late and waking up early. Lack of sleep increases the risk that drivers will fall asleep at the wheel.

A Danger to Ourselves and Others

Not only does drowsy driving put yourself, passengers and other road users at risk, fatigued related driving costs society approximately $109 billion a year.

The exact number of accidents caused by drowsy driving is difficult to calculate as it depends on drivers admitting they fell asleep to police. It is estimated that more than 6,400 fatal crashes happen every year and that 21% of fatal crashes are caused by tired drivers.           

How To Stay Awake While Driving

Having good sleep hygiene habits in general are the best way to reduce your general tiredness and will help you to reduce tiredness whilst you drive.

  • Regular good quality sleep
    Get to bed between 9pm and 10pm when melatonin starts to be released by your body, and get between 7 to 8 hours sleep (especially on the days when you have a long commute).

  • Don’t drive if you’ve had a long day
    If you’ve been awake for more than 16 hours or are feeling especially fatigued, avoid driving. This is difficult so it might be best to either car share and plan that on your busiest days you don’t drive, or make arrangements for someone to pick you up.

  • Take breaks when you feel tired 
    If you find yourself repeatedly yawning and find it difficult to keep your eyes open (or continuous blinking), stop and take a 20 minute snooze. The problem is that most people don’t realize that they are tired until way after the fact. Tiredness alarms such as V-CAF notify you when your body says that you are tired so that you can take the necessary actions to avoid falling asleep.
  • Avoid driving if you have drunk alcohol or taken medication
    These can increase the likelihood of you falling asleep at the wheel, and make your drive harder.

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If you are feeling tired, it’s best not to try to drive. Drinking caffeine, opening your window and listening to loud music can only go so far.

If you must drive:

  • On the days that you have to drive, try to get at least 7 hours sleep before driving.
  • Make sure you haven’t been awake for more than 16 hours before you drive.
  • Use V-CAF to tell you when you are tired so that you can take breaks whilst driving.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or take medications before driving.

Conclusion

Driving whilst you are tired is not a good idea and should be avoided. This calls for action on your part to prioritize your sleep.

Lifestyle changes are never easy but with persistence and focus you can do it. By taking small steps everyday towards this goal by using our suggestions will not only help you with tiredness whilst driving, but with your productivity in general.

Categories
Alert Driving Staying Awake

How Can I Stay Awake During A Long Drive?

The Long Drive and Staying Awake

It’s a long slow road…

Not too long ago I had to travel between two countries fairly regularly and the cheaper, quicker option was to drive.

It was a four-hour drive door to door. It was also winter which meant that after work on Friday, I was driving in the dark with ice on the road more often than not.

Driving whilst tired, in the dark on icy roads is not my idea of fun, but whilst I did it, I would do it in the best way. Here are some tips that helped me.

Travelling North on the Ring Road
Photo by Tim Foster @timberfoster on Unsplash Travelling North on the Ring Road, Iceland

Driving And Staying Awake

You need to get from A to B and you need to go now. Never mind that you didn’t have much sleep or had a hard day at work.

Tiredness happens to all of us, it’s natural, but the demands of modern living encourage us to shoe horn our body’s natural rhythms into our busy schedules.

We do not always have control over when we feel tired, and it could well be that we don’t feel tired when we start our journey, but it creeps up on us, and that is where the danger lies.

Tiredness and Driving Can Be Fatal

Tiredness reduces our ability to judge a situation accurately. Apart from slowing down our reaction times, and increasing the chances of us missing exits or road signs, tiredness clouds our judgment about how tired we really are.

This makes it easier for us to miss the tell tale signs that we are too tired to drive; signs such as:

  • Drifting across lanes
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Constant yawning

The main issue here is that if we are tired, our brains cannot react as fast and accurately as they would if we were fully awake, and increases the chances of us being involved in an accident.

Three Strategies To Staying Awake On Long Drives

Better than any strategy or quick fix is to get enough sleep before your journey. Being fully rested reduces the likelihood that you will be involved in an accident.

That said I didn’t have that luxury on a Friday evening at the start of my journey. So I had to resort to the following:

  • Take short naps before and during the journey
    I lost count at the amount of times that I found a gas station and just parked up and had a 20 – 40 minute snooze along the way. I woke up feeling better than I did before the nap and more confidant that I wouldn’t have any issues to my destination.

  • Use an alarm to remind you to take a break
    Watch or phone alarms are good, but I used an app called V-CAF. It’s an Apple Watch app that gives you an alert if you are tired, reminding you to take a break when you need to most.

  • Dink Caffeine
    I did do this sometimes, but I didn’t like the inevitable crash back down to tiredness after the caffeine wore off. I also found that I needed higher dosages of caffeine to get its full effect.

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So in summary, don’t drive whilst tired. Sleep!

If you must then try:

  • Taking short naps before and during the journey (pull over first)
  • Use an alarm like V-CAF that alerts you when you are tired
  • Drink Caffeine

Your Safety

I hope that you don’t have to drive too often whilst feeling tired.

If you do though, stay awake, stay focused, and stay safe.