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Staying Alert Whilst Driving

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 14 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Staying Alert Whilst Driving

Failing to stay alert whilst behind the wheel is one of the biggest causes of road accidents. Losing concentration - even for just a second or two - can be fatal.

Don't Drive Tired

It sounds obvious, but many drivers get in the car when they are feeling tired, knowing full well that it is likely to have a negative impact on their driving skills. Your natural alertness is decreased in this type of situation, making your concentration levels more prone to slipping. If you are not alert enough in the first place, you may not pick up on potential hazards as quickly as you need to.

Drive in Waking Hours Only

Avoid driving between midnight and six in the morning, as you won't be as alert as normal. Experts have also suggested that alertness is decreased in the mid-afternoon too. Long journeys during these hours are not advised for this reason.

Take Regular Breaks

On journeys over an hour, you should factor in breaks every quarter of an hour. It's tempting to want to get to your destination as quickly as possible, but scheduling in lots of breaks is essential for staying alert on the road. It's particularly easy to lose concentration on the motorway as there is little to break up the monotony of driving.

If you start to feel tired or lacking in concentration, stop as soon as you find a safe place to do so. If you are on the motorway, pull in at the nearest service station. Do not use the hard shoulder, as this should be for emergencies only.

Increasing Alertness

If you feel tiredness creeping into your driving, find a safe place to stop and take a power nap to refresh yourself. If this is not possible, a coffee break is the next best option to boost your concentration levels.

Contrary to popular belief, opening your windows or turning on the air conditioning to let a blast of cool air into your vehicle won't help you in the long run. It may provide an immediate boost, but once this wears off it will not have much of an effect on helping you to stay alert for any great length of time. Likewise, turning up the volume on the radio or CD player will only have a temporary effect, and can actually be distracting - particularly if it is music that you enjoy. Switching on your heater is a big no-no too, as a warm environment makes it more likely that you will lose concentration. Music with a monotonous backing beat is thought to lull drivers into losing concentration too.

The golden rule of staying alert whilst driving is to avoid making journeys (especially long ones) late at night or early in the morning when natural alertness is at its lowest. If this is unavoidable, a cup (or two!) of strong coffee before you set off should help to boost your alertness and perception skills, but this is only a last resort and should not be used as a validation for driving when you are not fully alert.

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