How to prevent drowsiness while driving

Mercedes attention assist

Falling asleep at the steering wheel is as big a menace as overspeeding or drunken driving. In India, the incidences of drowsy driving are catching up – accidents, especially on the highways are not always because of drunken driving, but many are because of drivers dozing off at the wheel.

How to prevent drowsiness while driving

These days with new, long, straight expressways being built with speed limits of 100 kmph, it is easy for drivers to begin to feel drowsy halfway into their journey, as the monotony of the drive sets in. This is more so with cars that have cruise control – and ironically, for those who stay within the speed limit – as a steady drive induces a sense of calm in the driver. This is even more so in the early morning, late afternoon and late night hours, where traffic is thin and there are very little distractions on the road to gainfully keep the driver alert. And it’s not just on open highways – afternoon drives in slow moving city traffic can also induce drowsiness. Also read: 10 tips to survive Indian highways

Some car companies such as Mercedes Benz offer a “Drowsy driver alert system”, which detects when a driver is feeling drowsy (by studying the inputs to the steering wheel and throttle response), and alerts the driver by means of a beep and a coffee cup icon in the instrument panel. However, with other cars one needs to explore ways and means of staying alert.

The causes for drowsy driving are many – inadequate sleep, stress, or even an underlying medical condition or taking medication that causes one to feel sleepy. If you are aware that you are likely to feel sleepy during a drive – take preventive action before you set out.

Here are seven steps in which one can prevent drowsiness while driving. We would love to hear more suggestions from the CarToq community:

How to prevent drowsiness while driving
Photo: Long, straight highways can induce monotony and drowsiness among drivers

#1 Get adequate sleep

Getting adequate sleep is probably the most obvious way of preventing drowsiness behind the wheel, but sometimes this is not possible. Studies show that people need between 4-8 hours of sleep a day at least, and this varies from individual to individual.

#2 Frequent stops

When you embark on a long trip, pace your journey in such as way that you can take a break after every 2-3 hours of driving. Even a 5-minute break to step out of the car and stretch your legs is a good idea to prevent drowsiness

#3 Drink coffee and drive

Drinking a caffeinated drink like coffee or an energy drink do have their benefits. However, make sure these drinks work for you. It takes up to 30 minutes for a cup of coffee to act on your system and if you are a habitual coffee drinker, you may not even feel the effects.

#4 Play music at uncomfortable volume

Soft music in the car on a long drive can contribute to drowsiness. If you have some music with you that is peppy, this would be the ideal time to play it and turn up the volume to slightly unbearable levels, which should help in prevent you dozing off. Also read: 12 retrofitted accessories to upgrade your car

#5 Set your seat uncomfortably

Although setting up your seat perfectly in the right posture for a drive is good for you, getting too comfortable in it can lull you to sleep, especially in cars that have good suspensions and a soft, quiet ride. On a long, boring straight expressway, you will nod off before you know it. Setting your seat backrest bolt upright is one way to make sure you don’t doze, as you are forced to shuffle about in your seat. Of course, don’t set it too close to the steering or in any manner where it will hinder your ability to drive.

#6 Turn off the AC, roll down the windows

A pleasant, climate-controlled environment inside the car on a hot day can lull you into a comfort zone, and make you doze off. If you begin to feel sleepy, turn off the AC and roll down the windows. The rush of air from outside could keep you alert. Do this even on a freezing day, however uncomfortable it may be.

#7 Use Bluetooth, call a friend

These days many cars come with Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity. When you are feeling drowsy would be a good time to call a friend or loved one who can engage you in interesting conversation, and keep you alert. This step, though, is a double-edged sword. Talking on the phone, even through a Bluetooth system, is distracting and is also illegal. Also read: Tips to handle city traffic

Share any other steps you have used or heard of to combat drowsy driving. Share any experiences you have that would be helpful to other drivers.