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You set out on a fairly long drive to see some friends. After a while you start feeling tired. What should you do? You set out on a fairly long drive to see some friends. After a while you start feeling tired. What should you do?

  • A. Pull off the road, stop and rest until you no longer feel tired.

  • B. Stop at a shop and get a drink that contains caffeine to help keep you awake.

  • C. Make sure you get plenty of fresh air circulating inside the car by winding down your window.

    The correct answer is A
    Correct. Taking a break will keep you more refreshed when driving.

Driving while sleepy

If you learned to drive in the UK you would have been advised to open the window to ensure a supply of fresh air. This works for a very short time, e.g. 5-10 minutes, but it's not a long-term solution to stave off tiredness. You can also have coffee or other caffeine-containing drinks or foods but, again, this is a very short-term fix and if the food or drink you consume has a high sugar content as your body finishes dealing with the sugar it will feel even more tired.

The only way to be not tired when you are driving is to have a good rest beforehand, or to have a short nap by taking a break, finding a suitable place to pull up and just sleeping for 10-15 minutes. Too much more than that and you will feel very groggy when you wake up. Wait for another 10 minutes before setting off driving again, and take a short walk to get your blood flowing. 

Loud music will cause aural fatigue and make it more difficult for you to concentrate. 

If you have another driver, let them drive and then you can take a nap in the passenger seat.

Turning up the radio and opening the windows have negligible effect on tiredness. Stopping and resting until you are not tired, or changing drivers is the best solution.

Teenage drivers especially need more sleep than adult drivers, but tend to adopt lifestyles where they become sleep deprived, e.g. through studying late, hectic after-school schedules, or partying. Tips for avoiding sleep deprivation are here.

Most crashes from fatigue happen at night between 11pm and 8am because your natural sleep cycle will mean you are more tired between those hours. You are up to 5.5 times more likely to have a crash if you are riding or driving between two and five am.