Driving sleepy is just as dangerous as driving drunk; here's how to avoid it

These tips could save your life
by Manskee Nascimento | Jun 21, 2016

Driving sleepy

It's been a long workweek and the daily grind of life has piled on you like a bag of bricks. In short, you're EXHAUSTED! The thing is, like thousands of us motorists, you have to endure the drive from home to work and then back, not to mention throwing other errands into the mix, and obviously stretching out your patience and endurance to their limits as you deal with the metro traffic. It's a formula for disaster. You may not realize it, but driving tired and sleepy is just as dangerous as driving drunk or distracted.

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I learned this the hard way years ago during the midday rush of things. With my body having a serious lack of rest from the previous days, I passed out and rear-ended an SUV at a red light in a usually busy intersection. Thankfully, no one got hurt--except for me, that is. Not so many will be as lucky in a similar incident, so allow me to share the wisdom I got from the episode.

Never underestimate the power of Mr. Sandman as he attempts to send you to dreamland when the road demands 100% of your mental focus. Ignoring him is like doing the lambada with the grim reaper. Unless you're Evel Knievel, dancing with death is something I highly do not recommend. Some would even try to fight off their heavy eyelids by blasting their audio playlist, which, contrary to what most people believe, will send you to the slumber zone all the same. For the sake of stimulation, others would even fantasize about getting a private lap dance from one of FHM's sexiest, but that just leads blood away from your bobbing head and into the wrong extremities.

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Let's be smart, people! Get to your destination without endangering yourself and others with these simple tips:

1. If you know you can't hack the drive, why bother? We have Grab and Uber at our fingertips these days. I often find relief in availing myself of such services, given I have insanely hectic days and driving home at the end of the day in my drained state isn't the safest idea. If you find these conveniences too costly, then resort to cheaper public transportation or hitch a ride with a colleague.

2. If you're not alone and someone else in the vehicle is more than capable of taking over the wheel, don't hesitate to ask. Staying alive is preferred over "dead on arrival."

3. Give yourself a boost! It won't hurt to go triple on that latte, or to chug down some energy drink. Heck, even a chocolate bar could do the trick.

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4. Do some blast calisthenics to release adrenaline. A set of solid pushups combined with jump squats should give you a decent pump. This increases cardiovascular function to keep you frosty prior to the drive.

5. Since we're not in Singapore, take advantage of the chewing gum. When it comes to keeping you awake, it is more effective than other bad habits like smoking cigarettes. If you really need your nicotine fix, then there's nicotine gum or, if you wish to mimic your puffing addiction sans the stench, then vape it is. Over the years, it's been a practice of mine to always stash a pack of gum in my storage bin or glove compartment. The continuous oral stimulation it provides pays off especially on long, steady drives. Even sucking on a lozenge or candy can be as helpful.

6. For the lone road warrior like myself, I've saved the best for my last suggestion. It's the art of power-napping! Whether it's a short or long drive ahead, this life-saving technique will be your hero. The moment your drowsiness kicks in, find a safe place to pull over like a gas station or a well-lit shoulder. Make sure your nap doesn't exceed 15 minutes. The moment you cross over into a deeper state of rest, you will find it harder to safely continue your drive, so please use an alarm like the one in your cellphone or digital watch to wake you up within that time. The idea here is to refresh and recharge your mind and body enough to regain adequate focus and control. Based on experience, I've had to do this a few times especially if I've been up for way longer than most, or when doing round trips between my home province and Manila. I've been accident-free since I started observing this practice.

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With all the avoidable mishaps on our streets, it would be wise to employ your common sense at all times. We are responsible not only for our own safety, but also for the safety of our passengers and everyone we share the road with. Sleep is good and valuable to your health when you find yourself in the comfort of your own bed, but never while driving (obviously). Don't become another statistic, so stay conscious and arrive at your destination fully intact, vehicle included.


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