How to Stay Alert While Driving

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How to Stay Alert While Driving

Driving drowsy is as dangerous as driving drunk. Numbers are hard to pin
down, but experts at the U.S. Department of Transportation put conservative
estimates at 40,000 injuries and 150 fatalities per year as a result of
drivers’ sleepiness.


1. Get a good night’s sleep, and plan around your body clock so you drive
at the times of the day when you are most alert.

2. Take a 10- to 15-minute break to exercise, stretch or walk briskly
after every 2 hours you drive.

3. Let someone else do a share of the driving. Divide the driving into
blocks of no more than about 4 hours for each driver.

4. Eat regularly to keep blood-sugar levels even, but be mindful of what
you eat. A candy bar won’t help much once the initial sugar buzz wears off.
To stay alert, the body requires good nutrition.

5. Drink coffee or tea (or another form of caffeine) for a temporary fix.
Keep in mind that caffeine does not take the place of adequate sleep.

6. Don’t drink alcohol.

7. Avoid medicines that make you drowsy, including antihistamines, some
antidepressants, cold and cough medications, and some prescription
medicines. If the label warns, “Do not operate heavy machinery,” you are
being warned not to drive a car.

8. Learn to recognize drowsiness. Among the signs: You keep yawning, your
head nods, your mind wanders, you feel eyestrain, or your eyes want to
close or have trouble staying focused. It all means that you need a break
from driving.

9. Take a nap if you’re sleepy, even if you can’t get to a bed. You’ll
have to judge your surroundings, but you’re probably safer napping for a
half-hour in a locked car pulled over to the side of the road than you are
driving drowsy.


Some drugs cause drowsiness for the first few days, so take extra care
when you start taking any new medicine.


If you ignore signs of drowsy driving, you not only put yourself at risk,
but also your passengers and everyone else on the road.

Watch for signs of a sleep disorder: falling asleep at inappropriate times
(such as at a movie theater), snoring loudly, feeling tired when you wake
up, or disrupting sleep because of breathing problems (a condition called
obstructive sleep apnea).

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