Top Tips for Driv­ing Tired

It’s that time of year when sober Snow­birds are think­ing about the re­turn drive home, and other for­ward­think­ing RV’ers are ex­cit­edly plan­ning long sum­mer trips to new des­ti­na­tions.

Snowbirds & RV Travelers - - Contents - Ar­ti­cle by Perry Mack

In ei­ther case, you may be plan­ning for some long days be­hind the wheel. Fa­tigue can set in un­ex­pect­edly with hor­rific re­sults. That mo­men­tary lapse of con­cen­tra­tion when the mind is dis­tracted, can sub­se­quently lead to an in­abil­ity to cor­rect the un­sa­vory di­rec­tion your rig has taken.

I con­fess I mis­lead you in the ti­tle. There are no top tips for driv­ing tired, but there are great tips to driv­ing alert and awake.

Driv­ing is Work

Ask any trucker about his glam­orously easy oc­cu­pa­tion, and you’ll be faced with the kind of ex­pres­sion that asks if you’re off your med­i­ca­tion, fol­lowed by a glance of the room in search of your cus­to­dial so­cial worker.

While driv­ing, your mind is con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing the GPS, speed, weather, and dash gauges while at­tempt­ing to pre­dict the prob­a­ble be­hav­ior of traf­fic in front of you. While much of this may oc­cur al­most sub­con­sciously, the men­tal aware­ness and con­tin­ual eye move­ment will wear you out. Es­pe­cially as dark­ness falls and your eyes and body strain with the ad­di­tional fo­cus and ten­sion, that re­duced vi­sion cre­ates. Driv­ing all day to reach your way­point, es­pe­cially driv­ing longer than planned be­cause of poor weather or traf­fic is tempt­ing but very ill ad­vised.

Here are my sug­ges­tions ac­cu­mu­lated over 100,000 km be­hind the wheel and the oc­ca­sional in­ad­ver­tent lane change. Work in Shifts

If you have an­other driver on board take turns. They don’t have to be equal shifts if some­one isn’t com­fort­able be­hind the wheel. Give the less in­clined driver the shorter shifts (even just a half hour) on the eas­ier, straighter stretches of road. You don’t even have to nap off-shift, the men­tal break from driv­ing will be re­ju­ve­nat­ing.

Take Breaks

Stop of­ten and be­fore you get tired. Most tips say every two hours. I stop at scenic view­points even if I’ve only been driv­ing 30 min­utes. The next stim­u­lat­ing rest stop might be a cou­ple hours away. Get your blood flow­ing by walk­ing. I do pushups, deep knee bends or jump­ing jacks. You won’t look like a lu­natic. Peo­ple will know

right away why you’re do­ing it and it may spur them on to do the same. You could save a life!

Eat Lightly

Those health nuts telling you to eat small meals all day are right. My grand­mother would make my favourite meal when I came to visit. Ribs and spicy sausage sur­rounded by dumplings and sauer­kraut sea­soned with ba­con. I would fill my belly and then lay down on the couch and sleep, while my girl­friend chat­ted with my grand­mother. Big de­li­cious greasy meals will knock you out faster than an MMA fighter in the octagon. I drive with sin­gle serv­ing size foods like snack bars and fruit, es­pe­cially grapes.

Avoid Late Nights

There’s less to see, and more eye­strain. Men­tal fa­tigue is the silent killer here. I’ve ac­tu­ally fallen asleep with my eyes open at­tempt­ing to stay awake – not healthy. If I am plan­ning to drive a long day, I start early be­fore the sun comes up and fin­ish be­fore it goes down, with some lee­way to reach my des­ti­na­tion should traf­fic or weather hold me up. Hav­ing a back-up (sooner) des­ti­na­tion at the end of the day is the mark of a sea­soned hauler.

The Lit­tle Tricks

No, pump­ing caf­feine and en­ergy drinks into you is not a safe so­lu­tion. The tem­po­rary boost in aware­ness is ‘tem­po­rary’. Then your body/mind crashes to lower than when you started. The same goes for rolling the win­dow down, turn­ing the ra­dio up, suck­ing on men­thol/eu­ca­lyp­tus can­dies, swal­low­ing caf­feine pills, splash­ing wa­ter on your face and eye­lids, pinch­ing or slap­ping your­self, talk­ing/sing­ing, … did I miss any? I’ve tried them all in my younger days, which has re­sulted in near death ex­pe­ri­ences. I rec­og­nize that I am one of the lucky ones.

When you are tired, you are tired. Be smart, plan con­tin­gen­cies, rest, and en­joy the jour­ney.

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