If you’re a young driver, you’ve probably heard plenty of warnings against intoxicated driving from all of the adults in your life. However, it can be just as dangerous to drive while tired. In fact, statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that as many as one out of every six deadly accidents involves a sleepy driver, and many of those accidents involve teenagers.
1. Listen to Your Body
The easiest way to avoid driving while tired is to simply pay attention to how you feel. If you find yourself yawning, squinting, blinking frequently or growing unnecessarily agitated at other drivers on the road, you may be fatigued. Studies have shown that extremely fatigued drivers can sometimes zone out and fall asleep for seconds at a time without even being aware of it. This can happen while your eyes are open and on the road, so don’t assume that you’re fully awake just because you can see. Even zoning out for a few seconds could potentially cause an accident.
2. Don’t Put Yourself in a Bad Situation
There are some situations in which you will have to drive while tired, but most of the time, it’s a mistake that can be easily avoided. For example, if you are planning a road trip across the United States, don’t attempt to make the journey in three days. Always allow yourself extra time to make it to your destination, and whenever possible, bring along a second driver so you can switch off in case you get too sleepy.
3. Avoid Driving in Silence
Israeli researchers at Ben Gurion University found that upbeat music was the most beneficial in helping exhausted truck drivers stay awake and focused. Keep a few playlists of your favorite fast-tempo songs for times that you need a little help keeping your energy levels up.
4. Be Careful With Caffeine
It’s okay to go for a little caffeine if you enjoy it, but it’s important to remember that it can’t offer any sort of guarantee that you will stay awake. It can take up to 20 minutes for the drug to absorb into your system, and after an hour or two, you may begin to crash again. If you’re on a long road trip, you should be careful about loading up on too much caffeine. By the time you finally get to your hotel, you may be too wired to sleep, resulting in even more tired driving the next day.
5. Make Frequent Stops
Even if you aren’t stopping for the night, a 10-minute break from driving can do you a world of good. Stop at a gas station, get some snacks and take a few minutes to rest, stretch and splash some cold water on your face.
If you want to guarantee that you will never cause an accident as a result of driving while tired, you have to commit to stopping when necessary. There are times when you will find yourself tired behind the wheel, but as long as you’re able to listen to your body and be honest with yourself, you can make the choice to pull over before anything bad happens. Always remember that your destination will still exist tomorrow. Making an unplanned hotel stop could be inconvenient, but nothing could be worse than losing your life.