Friday, May 9, 2014

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod: Driving Drowsy Does Not Make For a Safe Road Warrior

This is not a good driving position.
I was on my way home from Chicago about a month ago when I discovered I was behind a sleepy driver. They are not hard to spot. His overly large SUV would go straight for a minute or two and then list over to the rumble strips on the left side of the road. He would hear that ominous sound, jerk awake, correct, and lull himself back to sleep.

  • Sleep deprivation increases the risk of a sleep-related crash; the less people sleep, the greater the risk. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in such a crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more, while people sleeping less than 5 hours increased their risk four to five times.

  • Several drowsy driving incidents have resulted in jail sentences for the driver.

When I encounter a sleepy driver on the road, my first instinct is to go around them.  Being in front of a sleepy driver does not bother me over much, but being behind one is scary.  The fellow in this SUV was tricky.  For starters, he seemed to take offense at my attempts to pass him.  Second, he was driving at a rapid rate of speed and there were cars in the slow lane.

Every single time I attempted to get around him when the right lane was clear, he would speed up just enough so I couldn't get by.  Part of the problem, I realize, was that I was only willing to try to pass him when I was pretty sure he was awake.  The last thing I wanted was to be passing him, have him jerk awake, overcorrect and slam into my car.  My Prius is pretty sturdy, but being slammed by a vehicle that large would probably not be very good.
If you are a fan of the MythBusters, you will know they've done shows on whether or not is more dangerous to drive tipsy or tired.  The conclusion they've come to is that it is, in fact, more dangerous to drive tired than tipsy.
Over the last couple of weeks I have encountered a few sleepy drivers.  I know that many of us who are on the road for long stretches can get tired.  Whether you are off to a gig two hours from home or driving the kids to grandma's house, the road can test you...especially if it is long, uninteresting and straight.  So, for those of you who tend to get a little sleepy, here are some tips to stay awake on long car rides.
  1. Keep it cool.  Warm, cozy environments can turn up the melatonin in your body.  You will get sleepy.  So, don't let your car get to that perfect temperature if you are on a long car ride.  Much better if you are slightly cool.
My nephew knows how to keep it cool.
2. Caffein if you please. Coffee is a stimulant,and if need be, it is a way to remain awake. So, if you must, partake! (My husband suggest energy drinks. I've never had them myself, but he suggested I add them.)

3.  Snack well!  Pick something to munch on that isn't going to overload you with sugar and then cause a sugar coma.  Candy bars are probably not the best choice.  Choose something healthier for you.  Fruit is always good because it distributes sugars more evenly through your body.  I don't tend to eat fruit on the road since it means I have cores, seeds, peels and what not to deal with while I'm driving, but I can't resist Clementines when they are in season.  My snack of choice is honey roasted cashews.  A little sugar to stave off my sweet tooth, protein, and a little salt.  I also chew gum.  This doesn't work for everyone, but it usually helps me.
4. Drink plenty of fluids! Don't get dehydrated on the road! make sure you travel with ample supplies of water. 
5. Take rest breaks. Stop and stretch your muscles, get out of your car and walk around. Get the kinks out before you get back on the road.
6. Listen to the radio or audio books. I'm not an audio book fan. I have a five change CD player in my car and I load it down with the good stuff before I leave home. I also have an XM radio that gets me across the country. I tend to like the comedy channel, the '70s station and the Broadway channel. If I get really sleepy, I put it on right wing radio. A few minutes of that and my blood is usually boiling, and I couldn't sleep if I tried. The same may work for you if you lean to the right of the spectrum. Turn on some Rachel Maddow and just see if you can fall asleep.
Rachel Maddow
7. Play individual car games. I spy is a difficult game to play by yourself, but there are plenty you could use.  One game is to find all of the letters of the alphabet in sequence looking only at road signs, not license plates or advertisements on trucks.  Anther game I play is to guess what the driver of a car I'm about to pass might look like.  I work on my writing, go over new stories, think about plots for movie screenplays, self improvement projects, anything you need to do to make your mind work instead of being lulled to sleep.
There are plenty of other things you could do, but those are the things I do.  If you have some other ideas, please share them.  Let us all arrive alive.
Happy Driving.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Eugene Field
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
   Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
   Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
   The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
   That live in this beautiful sea;
   Nets of silver and gold have we,"
            Said Wynken,
            And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
   As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
   Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
   That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,—
   Never afraid are we!”
   So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
            And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
   To the stars in the twinkling foam,—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
   Bringing the fishermen home:
‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
   As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ‘twas a dream they’d dreamed
   Of sailing that beautiful sea;
   But I shall name you the fishermen three:
            And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
   And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
   Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
   Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
   As you rock in the misty sea
   Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:—
            And Nod.

1 comment:

  1. I have been known to open a window and sing when very tired. On one late-night drive back from Urbana, I discovered that a single M&M dissolving in my mouth was enough to keep me alert (idea stolen from special ed. teachers working with autistic students).
    My daddy liked dangerous drivers in front of him, "where I can keep an eye on 'em."