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Asleep At The Wheel
by Lauren Fix, The Car Coach

www.laurenfix.com

Have you ever nodded off while driving only to be woken up by the edge of the road or even worse, hitting a road barrier or shooting off a curve into a ravine with no skid marks. Police are seeing more cases like this - its attributed to falling asleep at the wheel.  Research shows the chances are greater that you will fall asleep at the wheel and that an incident could occur in the early morning and most likely when the driver is an hour or so short of home. Police say that most people often succumb to drowsiness while driving. These people also tend to party the heartiest, push the limits, and try to push through sleep deprivation to get home before it's time to go to work. The easy answer for these types of people is to not start a long or short drive while tired, and dont continue it when drowsiness sets in.

Are you tired or fatigued?
Sleepiness and fatigue is not exclusive to drivers with inadequate sleep. Long, dull roads and sitting in one position for long hours is draining. The lack of varied stimulants on wide, endless highways is also a factor. Certain cars bestow a hum or flat noise that can put you to sleep at the wheel. Ive had to drive back from events where I thought I was perfectly awake, as Id drive down the highway Id suddenly get drowsy, no matter what I would do, within an hour my body seemed to just want to force my eyelids closed and start my head nodding. You could choose to drive over the speed limit or seek an alternative route that is less constant in nature and more demanding of attention. Driving faster sounds like fun but it can earn you a nice ticket or even an accident for other reasons. Taking the longer path may just waster time too. Personally I have found that listening to books on tape, talking on the phone (of course with a hands free device) and stopping every 2 hours at maximum works best. But if you are really tired - get a room and get some sleep. Resting in your car on the side of the road or at a rest area can be dangerous - especially if you have a leaky exhaust system.

The Bottom Line
If you insist on driving anyway, if you have even a fleeting moment of hallucinating, or realizing that you are at the edge of being asleep at the wheel. You can kill or be killed. Stop and do something about the situation.

Here are some other ideas to do to fend off drowsiness? One sure to work:

  • Carry on an active conversation with a passenger.

  • Listen to whatever involves you more on the radio a talk show you can shout back at or music you can sing and tap along to while driving. Be alert to elevator music or music that makes you want to relax.

  • Keep the interior climate a little on the chilly side. If the air get to warms it will give you the nods.

  • Chew on something that is noisy, such as raw carrots, celery sticks, pork rinds or something a little spicy.

  • Everyone thinks that the caffeine in coffee, cola or tea will work, but it will only work for a short period of time.

  • Take an active break. Get out of the car and trot around for a few minutes. Stretch or do a few jumping jacks.

  • Swap drivers frequently, if you have someone with you.

  • The only sure thing is to stop and go to sleep, be sure to find a motel.  If catnaps work for you, take a 10- to 20-minute snooze in the car with the doors locked. Just make sure to drive safely

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