How not to fall asleep behind the wheel?


According to the police statistics, falling asleep when driving is among the ten top causes of traffic accidents. As a result of them, few hundred people get injured every year, and several dozen get killed. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn good ways to not fall asleep behind the wheel.  

Why do we fall asleep behind the wheel? 

Drowsiness behind the wheel affects us in pretty much the same situations as outside the car. We are most likely to be caught in Morpheus’ embrace in the following situations:

  • in the morning – especially after waking up early and having a bad sleep;  
  • after dark;  
  • if we didn’t have a good sleep the night before or, even worse, several nights in a row;  
  • soon after having a huge meal;  
  • soon after a stressful situation ends, once the emotions subside;  
  • while in a warm and stuffy place;  

So, if we’re wondering how not to fall asleep behind the wheel, first we should try to avoid driving a car in the situations listed above or to lower the risk of them occurring. As usual, the key is good planning and proper preparations. After all, we usually get sleepy during long trips, and we’re rarely forced to take them on the fly. We usually know that we’re going to hit the road in advance.

How not to fall asleep behind the wheel? Get a good sleep!

When we’re about to embark on a long trip, we should do our best not to stay up late the night before. But if we do go to bed exceptionally late before our trip i.e., because it took so long to pack, better push the alarm clock an hour or two forward. If we get up too early, we’ll spend the entire day fighting the sleepiness. It will cause us to be irritated on the road, we’ll have less attention, and our decisions will be delayed.

How not to fall asleep behind the wheel? Don’t delay the trip!

Of course, we shouldn’t go overboard in the opposite direction, either. Let’s not delay the trip so that we don’t end up having to finish our trip after dark. So, if we know there’s a long trip ahead of us, we should fill up the tank the day before. That way not only do we have time to get the gas, but also to check the tire pressure, or control the fluid levels and refill them, although the ones available at gas stations aren’t exactly cheap. If we were to do all of that on the day of the trip, we would waste at least 30 minutes doing all this, and that’s if we assume the gas station is on our way.

We shouldn’t postpone minor things to do until the day of going home either, i.e., back from vacation. Buying souvenirs or gifts, going to the post office or other trifles might delay our departure by another hour. Meanwhile we can usually take care of all those little things on the day before going home.


How not to fall asleep behind the wheel? Manage food and drinks wisely!

Before going on a long trip, we shouldn’t eat too much, as it usually makes us sleepy. While on the road, we should also rely on small and frequent snacks rather than plentiful meals. Small snacks might be a good excuse to take a short break at a parking lot or a gas station, but also to break the monotony of repetitive moves behind the wheel when we choose to snack a little without stopping. We might snack on pretzel sticks or crackers purchased at a gas station, but it will be much healthier if we go for sliced veggies instead. Here’s another opportunity to remind about proper preparations. It’s not very likely that we’ll be able to buy washed, cleaned and sliced vegetables on the road.

Now that we mentioned food, it’s a good idea to talk about drinks too. They’re much easier to get at gas stations than healthy snacks, but bringing coffee or strong tea in a thermos, as well as few cans of energy drinks (preferably in a cool box) is a good idea too. It will help us avoid pulling over too often, which will have a positive impact on the duration of our trip. It will certainly save us some money too. An energy drink costs about 0.5-1.5 EUR at a supermarket, while at a gas station it might cost 2 to 5 EUR

How not to fall asleep behind the wheel? Watch the temperature inside!

Back in the beginning we mentioned that we get sleepier when staying in a warm, stuffy place. Therefore, when sitting behind the wheel, we shouldn’t overheat the car’s interior and we shouldn’t ditch air conditioning. While we’re at it, we should mention that an air-conditioning system needs regular check-ups once a year. During such check-up, the entire system’s working is controlled, the cooling agent is refilled and fungi are removed. As a result, we get a fully functional AC at our disposal that will get the car’s interior cooler fast without any unpleasant odours. We also shouldn’t be afraid to sometimes do an old-fashioned venting of the interior i.e., by opening the windows all the way down when slowing down to make a stop at a gas station or when leaving a parking lot.

How not to fall asleep behind the wheel? Provide entertainment!

When driving, the driver should be focused on the road as much as possible. Contrary to the popular belief, though, they have a wide array of various entertainment at their disposal. They might entertain themselves by listening to music, radio or audiobooks, or talking to the passengers. It is also a good idea to get passengers to participate in activities – children will surely be glad to play “counting crows” or storks, or sing along with the driver. By combining all the ideas mentioned above creatively we might actually end up not having enough time to get sleepy!

How not to fall asleep behind the wheel, when we still get sleepy anyway?

That’s right, what to do when, despite having had a good sleep, not postponing the trip and not leaving too early, having snacks, drinking coffee and energy drinks, providing entertainment, we still feel sleepy? Well, there is that joke that when you can’t defeat your enemy, you might as well join them. Sometimes having a 15-minute nap at a parking lot can truly work miracles. And even if we allow ourselves 1 or 2 hours of sleep, is it a good idea not to do it and put health and life of us, our passengers and other drivers at risk?