The road stretches out before you, long and straight. It’s been a hard day, and the sun is just dipping behind the horizon. With the light fading and the body tiring, the most natural instinct in the world is to doze off. It’s your body’s way of letting you know it’s time to take a break. Unfortunately, falling asleep while driving may mean taking a rather extended, or even permanent break.
People who have been driving a lot of hours generally speaking just want to get where they’re going, and they convince themselves they can make it without pulling off the road and taking a nap. For the benefit of those drivers, and others who may find themselves nodding off at the wheel, we have compiled a number of tips on how to stay awake and safe.
- Energy drinks and coffee generally contain a lot of caffeine, and this may raise your level of alertness for a reasonable amount of time. Drinking might also mean you have to stop for a toilet break, getting you out into the fresh air and helping to shake off the cobwebs. If you feel you have to eat something, make it as tangy as possible—even sucking on a lemon will awaken your taste buds, and your brain will be right in line. However, if you’re eating something you can’t just pop quickly into your mouth, pull over. Eating while driving can cause accidents, too.
- If you’re snacking on something that comes in small pieces, eat them slowly and one at a time. In this case, eating slowly is not to prevent indigestion. If you make the snack last, it will keep you active for longer, helping you to stay alert.
- Find a music station that plays music you absolutely, positively can’t stand. The more you hate it, the more likely it is to keep you awake. Play it as loud as you can stand it—then crank it up a bit more. It’s better to arrive at your destination in a bad mood than not to arrive at all!
- If there’s a passenger in the vehicle, make sure they do their bit. Engage them in a conversation rather than letting them catch 40 winks. Talking is a fantastic way to remain alert, but never on a cell phone. If there’s no one in the car with you, go back to that awful radio station and sing your head off. Change the lyrics if you like, but singing and talking are two surefire ways to avoid falling asleep while driving.
- Oregon nights can get downright chilly at the best of times, and you can use this to help you stay awake. Roll down a window and let that cold night air slap you right in the face. Always remember that any discomfort you feel pales in comparison to what would happen to you if you nod off while driving.
- Speaking of slaps in the face, don’t hesitate to give yourself a smack if you feel yourself drifting off. Make it a good one, and feel free to say, “Thanks. I needed that!”
- If falling asleep while driving is a frequent and recurring hazard for you, see your doctor. Prescription medications are available that will help keep you awake.
- Change the position of the driver’s seat. Make it uncomfortable but not dangerous. Don’t get too close to the area where the air bag will deploy in the event of a collision, and make sure you can see all the mirrors and as much of the road as possible. Once you’ve found such a position, you’ll be more likely to remain alert and awake until you get used to the new settings. When that happens, change them again.
- Do things that activate more than one of the senses. Chewing on ice will feel cold, engage the jaw muscles and the taste buds. You don’t even necessarily have to crunch it, but ice seems to work exceptionally well at keeping people alert. Eating sunflower seeds engages a multitude of senses, but none of them will distract you from your driving. You have to put the seed in your mouth, extract it from the shell, chew and swallow the seeds and then get rid of the shells.
- The old reliable comes last on our list. Chewing gum is an excellent way to avoid falling asleep while driving. The very action of chewing stops you from yawning, and yawning almost invariably precedes nodding off. Keep chewing even when your jaws get tired, and when the flavor is gone, pop a fresh piece of gum into your mouth. This is a particular favorite method of truck drivers, who know more than most about driving when tired.
To summarize, falling asleep is something we all do every day, but falling asleep while driving kills and injures a large number of Oregon people every year. Following the tips in this article may just help you arrive at your destination safely. On the other hand, if you’ve been injured by someone who has fallen asleep at the wheel, or who was otherwise distracted, you should contact an experienced Portland personal injury lawyer, who will help you deal with the insurance companies and get the compensation you need and deserve.