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How to Stay Awake on a Long Drive: 3 Expert Tips

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Everyone knows that drinking and texting while driving are remarkably dangerous actives. But drowsy driving – surely that’s not quite as serious? The trucking industry is at capacity, and with a shortage of drivers, there’s an incredible demand to stay on the road and meet deadlines. Unfortunately, longer drive times, greater demands, and tons of traffic can leave any truck driver feeling exhausted behind the wheel.

  1. Stay Focused in the Cab

Drowsy driving is a form of impairment, and if it contributes to a collision, you may be held liable. Here are a few suggestions you can try from the cab to stay alert and safe on the road:

  • Turn the temperature down. A hot cab on a cold night is like a warm blanket. You’ll naturally start to drift off in this state, so turn down the temperature. It may be uncomfortable, but this can keep you attuned to what’s in front of you.
  • Focus your mind. Lights, signs, and even music can start running together. When you fall into a pattern, it’s like putting your mind in a rocking chair. A little variety can keep you focused. Listening to loud music can help, but switch it up. Try talk shows, stand-up comedians, or audio books. You might even turn the radio off to help clear your mind and heighten your senses.
  • Snacks. A good diet is essential, but snacking can help when you start drifting off. Try almonds, which have plenty of protein, or sunflower seeds – which seem to have some secret formula for keeping drivers awake.
  • Open your windows. Fresh air is good for you, and on a long drive, it can refresh you and keep you awake.

You can make these changes on the fly, but a little preparation is a far more effective way to stay alert. If you’re planning a long night trip or know you’ll be tired, prepare accordingly.

  1. Plan Ahead

Plan your route carefully. You may even rest during rush hour without losing any travel time by avoiding a crowd. In addition to planning your route, prepare your body by:

  • Balancing caffeine intake. A cup of coffee is excellent (and even essential for getting started), but don’t drink too much. Caffeine is a diuretic, and too much can dehydrate and exhaust anyone.
  • Balancing foods. Nourish your body if you want to stay alert. Fast foods may be convenient, but they don’t give your body what it needs to stay focused and awake.

Of course, these precautions don’t stave off exhaustion permanently. If you are driving a 12-hour shift, you will eventually get tired. Rest when necessary, and watch for the signs that it’s time to pull over.

  1. Know When to Stop

Recognize the warning signs. Drifting, rubbing your eyes, yawning – these minor distractions can lead to major problems if you don’t stop and recover. You may have difficulty focusing on passing signs, but if you continue to drive exhausted, you may struggle to gauge how far you are from another driver. Pull over when it is safe, and take a nap or exercise.

Pushing on through exhaustion puts every driver and passenger in danger. Luckily, there are a few tricks to stay alert and awake for that last little stretch of road. The next time you’re running on empty, try these suggestions to make it home safely.

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