Plan your journey
A planned journey reduces the risk of drowsy-driving and falling asleep at the wheel; it is more efficient saving you time, stress and money.
Mode of travel
If possible, make journeys by train, air, bus or ship, as these are safer (mile for mile) than road travel.
Time of Travel
Consider how long the journey will take, including time for rest and Power Nap breaks and unexpected delays. Avoid driving in the early hours of the morning, when you have had less sleep than normal (midnight to 6:00am), or in mid afternoon (1:00pm-4:00pm) - as these are peak times for sleep-related crashes. Avoid starting a long journey after a full day's (or shift ) work. Make sure that you have fully woken up before driving (7am is a very common time for drowsy driving accidents).
Plan your route
Write out a route plan that you can easily read. Check for road-works or likely traffic jams, and if possible, plan an alternative route to avoid any major delays. Plan where to stop for regular rest breaks (every two hours or 100km for at least twenty minutes) and for Power Naps if feeling drowsy.
Consider breaking your journey with an overnight stop. If you are catching an early flight or returning from overseas - make it part of your holiday.
Don't stay up late or reduce your normal sleep before a long journey eg; packing bags. Get a good night's sleep before you start the trip. Wear a good quality pair of sunglasses in bright light. Drivers who require vision correction should obtain a pair of prescription sunglasses
Avoid alcohol the night before your trip and during your trip. Alcohol disrupts sleep and makes you feel more tired the next day. Alcohol stays in the body for several hours and will make you more sleepy, so avoid having even one drink.
If you are taking any medication, check whether it causes drowsiness. If it does, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an alternative that does not cause drowsiness
Look after your health and fitness with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Check your vehicle
Make sure that everything is working properly, especially the tyres, lights and windscreen wipers. Also make sure that all fluids (such as brake fluid, oil and water) are at the right level.
Share the driving
If you begin to feel tired and are travelling with another person, stop driving immediately and share the driving Do not try to complete the journey (you might never arrive!). Pull over in a safe place (as far off the road as possible) and swap drivers - however, be sure that the other person is fully awake. The person who is going to drive next should come from the back seat. The most mentally rested person is normally sitting in the back seat. If you begin to feel tired and are travelling by yourself, stop driving immediately!
Sleep for an extended period
When a driver becomes drowsy, the most obvious way to avoid a crash is to stop driving and then sleep for an extended period by taking a four hour sleep or checking into a motel to get a full night of sleep. When this approach is not practical, studies have found that Power Napping or coffee can make a short term difference.
Taking a break for a short nap (15-20 minutes) has been shown to improve subsequent performance even among sleep-deprived people. However, nappers are often groggy for about 15 minutes upon awakening from naps longer than 20 minutes.
• Do not try to complete the journey (you might never arrive)
• Pull over in a safe place - as far off the road as possible
• Park in a well-lit area and lock the doors
• Put the windows slightly down for air, turn parking lights on. Turn off all other electrical equipment.
• Take a 15-minute "Power-Nap". A Power-Nap can refresh you for between one to three hours. Short naps have tremendous power to increase performance.
• Wait for a few minutes to be sure that you are completely awake before driving again.
Even in low doses, significantly improves alertness in sleepy people (but only marginally in those already alert). Coffee can help you stay alert if your sleep debt is low, but at high sleep debt levels there is no substitute for sleep
The minimum dose needed to be obtained is about two cups of percolated coffee, although the caffeine content of coffee varies widely.
If it's available, take two strong cups of coffee (over 150 ml of caffeine) but bear in mind that it will take up to 30 minutes before it has any effect. If you have coffee, you still have to be very sensitive as to when the coffee wears off. Be aware that thestrength and grades of coffee vary considerably. Two strong cups of coffee may increase alertness for 2-3 hours. For a long trip, skip coffee the day before. Your brain will get more of a boost from the caffeine.
Note: If you are a regular coffee drinker, coffee may have much less or any effect on you.
'Having two strong cups of coffee followed by a Power Nap before a journey back home following early morning shift work has been shown to have been successful in keeping a driver awake. By the time the coffee 'kicks in' the driver wakes up.'
Have a regular break as a minimum once every two hours or every one hundred kilometres to deal with alertness. If you are feeling drowsy you must also have a sleep eg; a "Power Nap" to deal with drowsiness.
Exercising during your break - moving your body briskly increases your heart rate and circulation and also improves alertness.
But remember, sleep is the only cure for sleepiness. So, if necessary, find somewhere safe to stay overnight.
Your Biological Clock
To be a safe driver, become aware of your own biological clock. What time of day do you feel most alert? What time of day do you feel most drowsy ? Once you are aware of your personal cycle, you can take extra care when you're likely to feel sleepy. That means driving when you are awake and stopping when you feel sleepy.
Look for signs of a sleep disorder. People who snore loudly, feel tired when they wake up, or fall asleep at inappropriate times (such as during a concert) may have a sleep disorder. If you suspect a sleep disorder or if you have trouble sleeping, see a sleep specialist without delay. People with pre-existing sleeping problems should use alternative forms of transport as they are at a very high risk of a drowsy-driving accident.
'The more drowsy that you become the more difficult it is to judge your true level of drowsiness'