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How to Combat Drivers’ Fatigue During a Road Trip

Road trips are a fantastic way to explore and see the world, whether it be through your hometown area or in a far off land. But with road trips often times come long drives and therefore drivers’ fatigue.

Do you ever start to get that oh so drowsy feeling while taking a long road trip? The kind of drowsy where you just can’t keep your eyes open anymore, but you don’t want to stop in an effort to save time and reach your destination? Drivers’ fatigue can be a pain when you are on a tight schedule (and not to mention extremely dangerous!).

How can you combat it and make sure that you are at your best for driving? Here are some of my favorite tips for fighting drivers’ fatigue:

Get a Good Night’s Sleep the Night Before

The night before heading out for a new adventure is bound to create some excitement which can make it difficult to sleep. But ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep before hitting the road can decrease the likelihood that you experience drivers’ fatigue.

Go to bed early, turn out the lights and TV, eliminate distractions, and get the sleep that you will wish you had gotten while driving hundreds of miles!

Get a good night's sleep
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Bring Something To Snack On

Snacking is something that always seems to help give me that burst of energy while driving. Pack something simple (and healthy!) that you can snack on while driving to keep you from drifting off. The snack will give you an energy burst as well as the physical act of chewing giving you a break from the monotonous driving motion.

Pack a healthy snack, combating drivers' fatigue
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Bring a Travel Buddy and Share the Driving

Perhaps one of the best ways to beat driver’s fatigue on a long road trip is to not drive the whole way! If you have a travel buddy who is able to drive switch off in regular intervals so that each of you has a chance to rest. While you may not get the perfect nap in, you will have time to rest your eyes and will be ready to go again after a bit. It also gives you the chance to have someone else take over if you notice yourself starting to drift off.

If you are looking to reach your destination as quickly as possible, this may be the perfect option for you! It will eliminate having to stop to rest, thus limiting the amount of time spent in the car.

Travel with a buddy, combat drivers' fatigue
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Have a Pre-made Playlist Ready to Go

Having some jammin’ music to sing along to may help you fight those feelings of drowsiness. Make a play list before leaving for the trip that you and your travel party will enjoy. If you start feeling drowsy turn the music up and have a dance marathon! (Don’t forget to pay attention to the road though!)

Having your favorite songs can help you stay focused and awake and can help kill those feelings of extreme fatigue.

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Take a Power Nap

If you are feeling drowsy and can’t get yourself to wake up, a power nap may be the answer. I have found that even a twenty minute nap can go a long way when driving long distances. Pull over to a safe location, put a blanket or jacket over the window, and rest your eyes for a bit.

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Take Regular Breaks

When driving long distances be sure to pull over every so often for a break, whether it be to get out for a few minutes to stretch your legs, grab a bite to eat, or use the restroom. When you start to feel drowsy, more frequent breaks may be a good idea, even though you may want to keep driving to get where you’re going sooner. The extra breaks will keep you moving more and give you some extra bursts of energy.

If you have the time you may even want to stop at some random local attractions, such as a beach area or small park. Just getting out of the car and doing something for a little bit can jerk you back awake!

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Don’t Drive for More Than Eight to Ten Hours a Day

Limiting the amount of time you spend driving can help fight that drowsy feeling. Even eight to ten hours a day is a LONG time to spend behind a wheel, but sometimes it may be necessary. If you can limit it to that with frequent breaks it can help combat driver’s fatigue.

It is also beneficial to split up the time spent driving if possible. When I take a road trip, I try to break up the time spent driving so that we are driving for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening, instead of driving straight through. I like to find destination in between to explore for a few hours each day.

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Avoid Alcohol Before Driving

Even small amounts of alcohol may make you feel sleepy and that can contribute to drivers’ fatigue. Never drive if you have had a lot to drink (as you know), but if you are planning on a long drive it may be best to avoid even the small glasses of alcohol altogether before heading out.

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Stop and Go For a Walk

Sometimes something as simple as getting out of the car and being active is enough to jot you back to life. The constant motion of driving down the road, especially in the dark, can contribute to your feelings of drowsiness and a short break from that can go a long way.

Find a rest area or another safe area and get out of the car and walk around a bit. You can combine this with grabbing a snack so that when you get back in the car you are ready to go!

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Grab a Coffee or Energy Drink

While normally I would not promote energy drinks, sometimes they are just necessary! Either go shopping before heading out (I would recommend this!) for your trip or find a rest area or grocery store along the way to grab some energy giving liquids!

While I am not a coffee drinker myself, if Coffee suits you it may be the perfect fix for you! There are plenty of Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks lining the thruways, cities, and small towns, or do some exploring and find some local, unique coffee shops!

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Choose Your Driving Time Carefully

Avoid driving around the times when people tend to be the sleepiest. These times may vary from person to person, so pay attention to your body and figure out what times are best for you to avoid long drives during. For many these times may be between midnight and 6am and late afternoon.

Plan your breaks and power naps around these times or simply don’t drive during these times. Book a room at a hotel and get a good night’s sleep before heading out again for some more adventure the next day!

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Always be safety conscious and put the safety of yourself and others first. Sometimes you have to pull over!

More tips on drivers’ fatigue

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8 Comments »

  1. For me, besides switching drivers, the most effective way to combat drivers fatigue is to chew on something. That’s why I always have a bag of pretzels or Doritos with me.
    Listening to loud music and rolling down the wiindows does not work for me. For me the stimulating effect of coffee starts after an hour or so, which means that it does not help when I need it most.

  2. These are really great tips! I agree that good snacks (especially things that are crunchy) are a great way to keep focused. We also listen to a lot of radio/podcasts when we’re on the road. And definitely, sharing the driving and not getting to ambitious with the distance you have to cover each day is key!

  3. Really good tips Melissa! For us, switching drivers is the best way, and knowing your limits. I can’t drive for more than 3 hours at a time (while my husband is fine to drive way longer!)

    I always try to plan a few adventures and walks along the way. I look for waterfalls, small walks or places where we can stop for tasty food!

  4. These are great trips. I think the key is planning short rides for every day. 8-10 is wayyyy too long. I think 4-5 is make much more sense. You will be less tired, and even if you are you can do any of the other tips (take a break, walk, nap) without feeling you are behind your plans.

  5. As a veteran of several cross-country roadtrips, I have to put a vote in for books on tape. As opposed to music, where the rythym can lull you to sleep, I stay mentally alert listening to a good book. Plus, it helps me knock out some books that have been stockpiling in my queue.

  6. Well, I am not a big fan of Coffee or Energy drinks so I may have to skip that when trying to combat Drivers Fatigue. I think one of the biggest culprits that lead to drivers fatigue is hubris! What I mean is as a guy, we often feel like we need to drive the whole way and that can lead to dangerous situations because we don’t give up our ego and let others drive us. I say this because I have been guilty of this before. So taking breaks and letting others drive are key for me!

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