Driving when you are dead tired? Probably one of the worst ideas ever. But it seems to happen to us all at some point in our lives. Necessity may demand it. Your estimated time of arrival may be pushed out by traffic. Coming down with a cold on the first day of holiday and not wanting to postpone it. Whatever the cause, finding yourself behind the wheel when you really know you shouldn't be, can be terrifying.When your hands drop off the steering wheel and hit your thighs, you can be sure that you have fallen asleep at the wheel. Who knows how many intersections, and oncoming vehicles, and bends you may have slept through.
But what is the alternative? What do you do if you find yourself nodding off and you are still a fair way from your destination? Sleeping on the side of the road hardly seems any more safe, right?
Arrive Alive suggests the following measures:
1. Recognise that you are in fact in danger of falling asleep. Yawning? Battling to remember the last few kilometres you drove? Find yourself drifting into the emergency lane? Can't hold your head up? You need to stop as soon as possible, preferably somewhere safe, and do one of the following:
a) get out the car and do some light exercise to increase your blood flow and the amount of oxygen flowing to your brain;
b) take a 15 - 45 minute nap; or
c) drink a caffeinated beverage such as coffee or coca-cola but beware that it takes at least 30 minutes for the effects to kick in AND this is short-term alertness will wear off.
2. Stop regularly. Stopping every 160km or every 2 hours reduces your risk substantially. Sounds like a good excuse to enjoy the journey and find cute local spots to have a milkshake.
3. Take along a friend. A passenger is a great way to reduce drowsiness. Not only may they help you recognise that you are indeed tired, but they will probably request a few extra stops. They can also take turns driving and/or help keep you awake by talking to you while you drive.
4. Time your trip well. The most dangerous time to be on the road is from Thursday evening until Sunday. This is when most road accidents happen in South Africa. Perhaps this is when we are most likely to relax and enjoy ourselves (and consume too much alcohol) and least likely to be going to bed on time. Avoid traveling when drowsiness is at its worst - 7pm until 11pm - these are the hours when our sleep hormone Melatonin kicks in and makes us want some sleep.