Whether you are stuck in traffic during your already lengthy commute or driving across the country for a family vacation, driving for long periods of time is accompanied by specific dangers. Drivers must take special precautions when they are in control of their vehicles for periods of time longer than a half hour or so. The strain of being in control of a vehicle for a long span can cause driver fatigue, a leading cause of accidents. There are several ways to keep safe and alert when driving for a long stretch of time.
The first rule is to never drive a car if you are already tired. It is impossible to pay attention to the road, other drivers, and your own vehicle if you are not completely alert. Here are some important facts about driving when feeling tired:
Bring along a passenger. Having another person in the car will help you stay focused when driving for long periods of time. Your passenger can engage you in conversation, help you with directions, and possibly take over the wheel if you become too fatigued to continue driving.
Transferring navigation responsibility to your passenger will keep you both involved and alert
When driving a long distance, it is best to partner with another experienced, trustworthy driver. Taking turns driving will reduce the strain each driver experiences and keep each person alert.
Listen to the radio. If you do not have a passenger in the car, turn up the radio. While you should never let listening to the radio hinder your ability to pay attention to the road, driving with a little background noise might help you stay alert. Some people also turn to books on tape to provide entertainment during long commutes or lengthy road trips.
TED talks are another great option for self-education on the road
Take frequent breaks. Never think that you must make a long drive in one stretch. Take a break approximately every two hours. If you are driving on an interstate highway, state sponsored rest areas will provide you with a great place to stretch your legs, grab a snack, and use the restroom. Other great places to take a break from a long drive include gas stations, local restaurants, and parks.
Rest area sign indicates a public facility in 2 miles where drivers can rest, eat, or refuel
Have a snack. While some experts advise against eating while driving, a snack can be useful when driving for a long time. Hard candy, chewing gum, granola bars, and trail mix are some snack ideas that will give you a boost of energy while causing little distraction. Always keep your attention focused on the road. Do not eat while driving if you feel that it is dangerous.
Use a GPS device. Most GPS devices offer a function that provides drivers with turn by turn directions from an internal automated voice. If you have no passengers, the frequent updates of your GPS might help you stay alert while keeping you on the right route.
All of these tips are small things that will help to increase your awareness and alertness while driving for long periods of time. Remember, driving may not be physically demanding, but it can be mentally straining. Driver fatigue is a very real condition and should be taken seriously. If you ever feel that you are too tired to continue after driving for a long period of time, it is imperative that you arrange for another driver to take over.