How to Stay Awake While Driving
Driving while tired. Most of have done it at some point. It’s difficult to avoid: tiredness usually creeps up on you.
So what to do if you find yourself miles from home and feeling shattered? For most, it’s push on and try to stay awake. You’ve got plans – booking a hotel is a waste of time and money.
But feeling sleepy on a pitch-black motorway is much, much more than a normal, everyday nuisance. It can be fatal – 15 per cent of motorway accidents involve drowsy driving. One particular danger is microsleep, a short uncontrollable period that can last up to 30 seconds. You can fall into it without noticing and even if it’s only for ten seconds, that’s long enough to cause a crash.
First things first. If any of this is happening to you, stop driving as soon as possible:
• Frequent yawning and rubbing eyes
• Don’t remember the last few miles
• Mind wandering, not focused on the road
• Eyelids feeling heavy, difficulty keeping head upright
• Drifting over rumble strip into other lanes
• Someone honks at you – your driving could be erratic
Find a safe place to stop for 20 minutes, lock your car and take a quick nap before you drive again. There are some easy fixes to fend off driver fatigue, before you stop and when you head back out on the road.
However, while these methods can give you a quick boost of energy, it’s only temporary. They shouldn’t be relied on to keep you awake for more than 15 minutes.
The Journal of Sleep Research’s survey of UK drivers studied these quick ways to combat tiredness while driving. They concluded that if you need to do any of these, it’s a sign you should be stopping to rest.
Ultimately, the best course of action is regular naps. The researchers found that 15-minute naps maintain performance over 35 hours with no sleep – if taken every six hours. Naps really can make that much difference. Even shutting your eyes in your seat for four minutes can help. What’s more, they don’t force you to change your plans. All it takes is pulling over into the nearest car park or service station.
But your nap should be no more than 20 minutes – any longer can leave you feeling more tired, as it develops into the full eight-hour sleep your body’s craving.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems
And finally, if you’re considering a new car, bear in mind technologies that can make your drive easier – they may be helpful when you’re weary at the wheel.
Land Rover vehicles offer many standard and optional Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, including:
• Cruise Control and Speed Limiter, which maintain the vehicle’s current speed without the driver needing to keep their foot on the pedal*
• Adaptive Speed Limiter disables the accelerator when the vehicle is speeding, allowing it to coast back down to the speed limit, while the Adaptive Cruise Control keeps your vehicle at a safe distance from the one in front*
• Lane Departure Warning senses when the vehicle is unintentionally drifting out of your lane, gives a visual alert and a gentle vibration of the steering wheel*
• Driver Condition Monitor detects if you’re starting to feel drowsy and gives you an early warning when you need to take a break*
• Blind Spot Monitor alerts you to vehicles in, or quickly approaching, your blind spot*
These are handy features but by no means replacements for full concentration and a healthy lifestyle with regular sleep. They can swiftly alert you to hazards and warn you if your driving is unsafe, but ultimately, can’t prevent an accident if you fall asleep at the wheel.
The best approach is to avoid becoming tired in the first place, according to an OEM study. Methods includes forgoing long night-time drives for other means of travel when you can, keeping a regular sleeping routine and eating nutritious foods. A healthier lifestyle isn’t a quick fix with immediate results, but ultimately, it’ll keep you awake for longer than knocking back an energy drink, blasting out heavy metal and hoping for the best.
*In car features should be used by drivers only when safe to do so. Drivers must ensure they are in full control of the vehicle at all times.