The holidays are an exciting time to enjoy traveling, visit family and take road-trips. Because most will be offered a break from work and school, many families and individuals consider the holidays an excellent opportunity to visit new places or spend time with friends and family. Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest travel holidays during the year. In 2012, AAA estimated that nearly 44 million people traveled during this long holiday weekend while 90 percent of them traveled by car. Capping off the holiday season, the busiest travel days of the year are around Christmas and New Year’s. In fact, AAA projected that over 93 million people traveled during that time of the year in 2012. Mix driving long hours among the increased vehicle traffic (oftentimes with snow and icy weather) and the result is a pretty large safety concern.
On average, approximately 250,000 drivers fall asleep on American roads every day, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
To reduce the risk of road-trip fatigue, here are a few tips to help you stay alert and keep you and your passengers safe:
- Start fresh. Get a full night’s sleep before heading out on your road trip.
- Eat breakfast. Even if you don’t feel hungry, getting something in your system can help you feel better both mentally and physically.
- Drive during your normal waking hours. Programed inside your body is a natural sleep cycle (circadian rhythm). If you’re still on the road during your normal bedtime, you will start to notice your body fighting the urge to want to sleep.
- Take breaks. During long road-trips with periods of almost no physical activity, drivers are more likely to zone-out and fall into autopilot. This is the reason why road trip fatigue is a bigger problem than commuting fatigue. Stopping every couple of hours, or more often if you’re feeling tired, to do something physical will help keep your mind and body alert.
- Hydrate! Dehydration can leave you feeling drained and fatigued. If you're in need of a quick "pick-me-up", try drinking a glass or two of water.
- Roll down the windows. As it turns out, fresh air really will do you good. Research shows that taking in some fresh air increases energy in 90 percent of people.
- Drive with a buddy. Acting as your co-pilot, having someone in the passenger seat can help keep you company while keeping you accountable for your driving. Double win!
- Stop and re-energize. If you start to feel drowsy, it is much safer to stop driving than to risk accident.
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