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Eliminate the drowsiness factor when you’re driving


Long driving times, fatigue, medications and poor air quality can all result in a drowsy driver. - 123RF
Long driving times, fatigue, medications and poor air quality can all result in a drowsy driver. - 123RF

Summer is upon us and with it higher temperatures and longer drives for many — a deadly combination that often results in drowsiness and subsequent crashes.

Statistically, drowsiness has been blamed for as many as one in 10 vehicle crashes.

While the amount of time spent at the wheel is the chief cause, other contributors include fatigue, medications and poor air quality.

There are cures for all of these.

LONG HOURS

To combat the problem of long hours, take a break, schedule regular rest stops. But do more than rest, get out and do some aerobic work.

Run around the vehicle several times (assuming you’ve pulled well off the road away from traffic).

Get the heart pumping and blood circulating.

Get some fresh oxygen into the lungs. If possible, schedule driver changes.

FATIGUE

The most common cause of fatigue is that resulting from preparing for the trip.

People stay up late or get up early, getting ready for a vacation drive. They also tend to party while on vacation.

These disturbed sleep habits have a way of coming back to haunt you — at the worst possible moments.

Another problem arises from weekend cottage goers who spend a great deal of time doing physical work after a winter of nothing more taxing than pressing the button on the remote.

Whether you are tired from preparing for the trip — or from working or partying during it, be wary of your body’s ability to catch up — whether you are ready or not.

HIGHER TEMPERATURES

If you don’t have air conditioning, crack a window to get air movement.

In most vehicles where the front and rear windows can be lowered, putting the windows down in both front and rear doors on the same side will create the least amount of noise and the least disturbance for the driver if they are lowered on that side of the vehicle.

MEDICATION

There are hundreds of common over-the-counter medications with a potential to cause drowsiness. Check the labels of any medications you are taking — whether over-the-counter or prescription.

Labelling is inconsistent and the interaction of medications a very significant concern, so take time to query a pharmacist about any medication you are taking — or plan to take.

Don’t assume something as common as antacids or common allergy medicine are harmless. It may well be — on its own.

But taken in combination with each other or another drug, the effect could be quite serious.

AIR QUALITY

As the weather heats up, people are more and more likely to use the re-circulate position on their ventilation system. This is an incredibly dangerous practice. Re-circulate is just that — using the same air again, the same air you have already breathed is re-circulated back into the vehicle.

You removed much of the oxygen the first time you breathed it and what you get back is air laden with moisture and very little oxygen.

After a couple of passes, it is very easy to find yourself drowsy — after all, you’ve intentionally shut out outside or fresh air.

The re-circulate position is designed to be used briefly — when trying to get warmth into the air in winter and to cool the air more quickly in summer.

If your vehicle has an automatic climate control system, it will switch from re-circulate to fresh air automatically within minutes of startup. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to remember to do it yourself.

When you see a vehicle with badly fogged-up windows, do the driver a favour and point out he or she can alleviate the situation and create a much safer climate by getting out of the re-circulate mode.

It is far preferable to maintain a supply of fresh, albeit warm air, over stale, old air.

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