Late Thursday night, on April 18th, 15 miles east of Lamar, Colorado, a 33-year-old man from Granada lost control of his vehicle, skidded broadside across the road, and rolled off into a ditch. The driver, Faustino Perez-Benitez, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. Colorado State Patrol cited that the cause of the accident was falling asleep behind the wheel.
Perez-Benitez tragically lost his own life, but it is fortunate that no other drivers were injured or killed as well. That is not always the case. Weary drivers lose good judgment about whether or not they can safely operate a vehicle, putting themselves and others in danger.
Unfortunately, these kinds of car accidents happen all the time, yet they are easily avoidable. Follow these five tips for staying awake behind the wheel to avoid getting into an auto collision.
1. Drink caffeinated beverages. Coffee is many long-distance drivers’ go-to drink for staying awake on those late night road trips. The caffeine in coffee and other energy drinks, like 5-Hour and Redbull, provides a temporary boost in energy which is helpful for getting you through that last push to reach your destination.
However, caffeinated drinks should be used sparingly and responsibly. Most people experience an energy crash after the caffeine has worked through their system, making them worse off then before. If you decide to go the caffeine route, drink lots of water with it.
2. If you are traveling with someone, have a conversation. A lot of travelers rotate drivers on long-distance trips—one person drives while the other sleeps. But if there are only two people in the car, this can be dangerous too. Talking is a good way to stay awake and keep your mind active. Also, if both people are awake, then that’s double the eyes on the road, and another person who can judge if you are too drowsy to drive.
3. Make frequent, quick breaks to rest and stretch. Just getting out of the car to walk around and stretch gets your blood moving again and can make a world of difference. Or consider stopping to take a short nap if you are feeling especially fatigued. Stop at least every 100 miles or so and take a break.
4. Bring media that will hold your interest. Whether it be music, audio books, or podcasts, listen to something that will engage you and keep you from falling asleep behind the wheel.
5. Snack often. Snacking while driving provides a couple of advantages: it supplies your body with more fuel, and stimulates taste, both of which can boost energy. A few suggestions of good snack foods while driving are sunflower seeds, sour candy, or apples.
Of course, the most reliable way to make sure you don’t fall asleep behind the wheel is the pull over when you feel fatigued. While these 5 tips can help, eventually your body will require rest so strongly that none of these tricks will have an effect.