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What to do When You Tire at the Wheel

By Alexa Connelly
August 19, 2011

We’ve all had that dreadful feeling of exhaustion known as driver fatigue. But how many of us ignore it, putting our lives and those of others at risk? Too many, we fear, as accident statistics show.

There’s plenty you can do to avoid fatigue, like skipping big meals, alcohol and certain medications before driving, taking regular breaks, having caffeinated drinks or foods (like chocolate-covered espresso beans) and keeping the fresh air flowing. But when all your precautions fail, you need to take urgent action. Don’t attempt to “drive through” your tiredness.

You need to stop as soon as it’s safe to do so. If it’s not safe, slow down, get cold air on your face via windows or the car ventilation system, turn the radio up loud, sing, talk and even pinch yourself. As soon as it is safe, stop the car, and either get out and walk around for at least 20 minutes or, preferably, take a similar length nap. Afterwards, if you can, splash your face with cold water and drink a caffeinated beverage. If you repeatedly suffer fatigue despite these precautions, seek medical advice. You could have a sleep-related disorder.

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