Have you ever felt so tired you started falling asleep behind the wheel? Drowsy driving causes tens of thousands of traffic accidents every year. Sometimes, full-time truckers succumb to this threat.
Typically, law enforcement agencies around the nation receive about 100,000 drowsy driving reports annually. The National Safety Council estimates the number of drowsy driving incidents far outnumbers cases called into the police. Consider using some helpful tricks to stay alert and mentally focused along the road.
Recognize These Warning Signs
Most experts recommend learning some key drowsy driving warning signs. The urge to fall asleep during a long trip may arise at any hour of the day. Do you notice any of these common symptoms?
- An inability to stop daydreaming
- A restless, exhausted sensation
- Eyelids that want to close
- A temptation to rest your head against a window or the steering wheel
- An inability to remember passing familiar landmarks
- A frequent urge to yawn
- Missing lane changes or following other vehicles too closely
- Allowing the truck to gradually drift out of its lane
These signs indicate potential danger. Today, some scientists believe drowsy driving actually involves “micro-sleep” periods. A tired driver may begin dozing off, then awaken after a second or so without even realizing sleep has occurred. This situation proves dangerous for everyone. In some cases, microsleep deteriorates into longer sleep periods. These incidents sometimes result in serious or fatal traffic accidents.
Pay Attention to Drowsiness Signals
The secret to correcting a drowsy driving situation involves taking action to wake yourself up as soon as you detect the problem. Don’t wait to become more focused; that won’t happen on its own. Most helpful mental tips for dealing with this problem actually require physical action first on your part.
Unfortunately, many truckers/s operate on tight schedules. They may feel strong pressures to meet or exceed deadlines. A driver may hesitate to spend time resolving a drowsiness problem. Don’t feel guilty about that issue! Everyone grows sleepy driving at one time or another. You need to make sure you arrive at your destination safe and sound, and without causing an accident along the way.
Helpful Physical “Brain Hacks” to Remain Alert
Some useful steps to take to combat tired driving help most people. Consider using these tips to stay alert and focused along the road:
1. Remember to Prepare For Safe Driving
If possible, always help yourself drive with a clear, focused outlook by using common sense. Try and get a good night’s sleep before taking over the wheel. Stop for healthy meals along the road. Never attempt to drive while under the influence of alcohol or other substances that diminish alertness.
2. Pull Over And Change Drivers if Possible
Trucker/s who drive with a team-mate enjoy an important advantage. Pull over and allow your co-worker to drive if you feel yourself becoming drowsy. Particularly during long road trips, this strategy may enable you to relieve one another at intervals.
3. Park And Take a Short Nap
What can you do if you feel tired and you don’t have a team-mate to assist you? In this case, consider parking in a rest area or a truck stop. Take a brief 10 to 25-minute nap. Use an alarm clock to help awaken. Let your dispatcher know about your schedule change, if required.
4. Stop For Caffeinated Coffee or Soda Pop
Many convenience stores and truck stops sell caffeinated beverages. Caffeine in the small doses contained in coffee or soda pop can help tired drivers wake up safely and focus better on the road. While this solution won’t please anyone trying to cut back on caffeine in a diet, it does help in an emergency. Should you consider caffeinated energy drinks? These formulations sometimes contain very high (and potentially unsafe) amounts of caffeine. Consider speaking with your doctor first to determine if you should avoid certain caffeinated foods or beverages.
5. Stop And Move Around
If you notice signs of drowsiness, simply parking and moving vigorously for a few minutes may help. Sitting for extended periods of time contributes to drowsiness. One exercise which can help you stay focused involves walking completely around the truck, stretching your arms as high as possible above your head as you move. When you complete a full circle, inhale and exhaling deeply twice, and then while holding your arms outstretched and rigid in front of you, shake both hands in the air as quickly as possible for 30 seconds. Repeat this full exercise if necessary until you feel wide awake. This activity promotes deeper breathing and improved blood circulation, which will help increase your mental alertness.
6. Increase The Light
One way to focus better on driving involves increasing the level of illumination. Sitting in darkened surroundings sometimes contributes to drowsiness. Consider stopping and spending a few moments in a brightly illuminated place, such as a truck stop fast food outlet. Turning on the light inside the cab for several minutes may also prove helpful in alleviating drowsiness while driving at night.
7. Stop And Wash Your Face
Perhaps you’ve seen old movies or TV shows where a tired character splashes tap water onto their face? This method actually works in raising alertness. If you feel fatigued driving during a long trip, consider parking in a rest area and thoroughly washing your face at the restroom sink with cold tap water. Taking this action wakes most people up quickly. The sensation of suddenly feeling chill water on the face signals your body to become more alert. It produces important physiological changes.
Mental Tricks to Stay Awake
Once you’ve made sure you’ve fully awakened from a drowsy spell, you can safely play a variety of games to help you stay more alert while driving. A few of these techniques include:
- 1. Keep a list of states issuing license plates of vehicles you see along the road. Try and spot plates from each of the 50 different states.
- 2. Select a particular vehicle brand, such as a Chevy or a KIA, and count the number of vehicles of this type along your way;
- 3. Think up at least one good joke (or one good song) using the name of every town or city you pass on your journey.
Using a CB to speak with others along the road may also provide a great way to help you remain sharply focused while driving, in some cases. By staying in touch with others, you can support one another if you begin feeling drowsy. Always adhere to your company’s directions about radio use, however. Transporting some types of cargos requires drivers to adhere to stringent security measures.
Detect Drowsiness Quickly
Long haul trucking often involves demanding work hours. It remains essential to catch the signs of oncoming drowsiness quickly. Take fast physical action to wake yourself up. Remain fully awake to ensure everyone’s safety along the road!
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