Alarming mistakes drivers make on long journeys

Krado Low
8 Mar 2019
 

Before autonomous cars take away the amazing experience of a road trip, look up, enjoy the view, and experience the trips of a lifetime while you can!

In Singapore, we love to drive, but at the same time, we are so used to driving short distances, that a long distance journey can be a peril to us. Many tragic accidents can easily be prevented if the driver did not doze off at the wheel.

Why is the act of driving long distances, capable of putting the most alert driver to sleep? A deadly combination exists: the constant drone of the engines, tyre roar and nothing visually exciting along the way. Here is how we managed to survive:

1) “Energy food/drinks”

It’s psychological reaction to boredom, by keeping an ice box handy and binge-eating snacks to stay awake. We all have seen that driver before, filling a bag full of sweet snacks and drinks for the road ahead.

There are all kinds of “energy” products promising they provide the best way to stay awake while driving - some even come with mystical powers of ginseng and taurine. But peer at the label and you’ll realize that they are loaded with sugar. Yes, these products may work for the first hour, making you feel super-alert, but reactive hypoglycemia (a.k.a sugar crash) will hit within four hours. This will make you even more tired than you were before.

Having a complete light and healthy meal before a drive will go a long way to ensuring that you stay awake throughout the journey. Snacking is a good way to stay awake through the journey, but instead of reaching for that sweet treat, try crunchy food. Baked nuts are just one of the better ways to stay awake during a drive.

2) “Coffee overloading”

Addicts swear by it, we produce articles after filtering the mythical black magic juice made from the coffee beans after it has passed through an animal and our drip machine.

But yes, having one cup of coffee to perk yourself up does work within an hour of consumption, having more than five however, will being a whole lot of problems. First off excessive caffeine can have a diuretic effect, which will make you wee more, and that increases your chances of dehydration, which will cause immediate fatigue. Do you feel tired after a long haul flight? Yup, that’s dehydration for you.

It's worth noting there are also other side effects associated with heavy coffee consumption, such as rapid heartbeat, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, muscle twitching and blurred vision. There is a saying, have everything in moderation.

3) Not deactivating the car’s A/C recirculation

A common misconception is that oxygen levels inside the car is lowered if the air recirculation button is on for an extended period of time. Unless you car is as well sealed as the Space Shuttle, oxygen is always being replenished with the outside air.

In fact, the “stale air” effect is caused by the increase of contaminants and… carbon dioxide (CO2) . If you drive alone, this increase in CO2 won’t be as drastic as driving with a full load of passengers. Many modern luxury cars will take care of this for you, if you leave the A/C system in automatic. However, it doesn’t care if there is a rubbish collection truck in front of you, or a vehicle with funny smelling exhaust.

This is why it’s a good idea to hit that a/c recirculation button to set the car to suck in glorious outdoor air to freshen up the air inside, or for a fast relief, just crank down the windows. Wake up and smell the … whatever is outside!

4) Blasting your favourite music

With the constant white noise of the engine and tyres, one may be tempted to put on some really loud music to keep awake. Cue the endless mixes of techno, trance, or even Eurobeat if you’re into that sort of genre.

The problem is, loud music can be as distracting as the engine in the car, especially if the driver uses it to mask the sound of the engine or tyres. Loud music also hampers the situational awareness, as well as decision making process.

This is why some drivers instinctively turn down the volume once they are reaching a destination, when the concentration is needed to find a parking spot. That is right, music can be both a stimulant as well as a distraction. In high volumes, thinking is impaired because the aural sensory is so overwhelmed that the brain struggles to process information efficiently.

Listening to our own music collection can accelerate the onset of fatigue. Alternatively, consider light listening material such as stand-up comedies. With the proliferation of streaming audio services such as Spotify, yes, there is no limit of options to keep your mind active, as long as you keep it at a comfortable listening level.

5) Being half-prepared for the type of journey

Very often, people just jump into their cars and drive. Unlike short trips in Singapore, long distance driving requires a whole set of contingency plans should the unforeseen arise. Many drivers don’t even know how to handle a puncture and standing helplessly by the roadside waiting for assistance does nothing but stress you out on a holiday.

This problem is further highlighted when you need to use a rental car - while most fleets are well-maintained, it does not hurt to do some basic pre-trip inspection to ensure that the vehicle is ready for the long haul. Most car rental companies can accommodate a request for a quick inspection at one of their maintenance depots before you set off on a journey.

If your journey will take you into remote areas, having a survival kit can make the difference between life and death before rescue reaches you. It will take months of planning for a week’s drive, so don’t rush and miss out on important details such as fuel stops, way points as well as points of interest. Afterall, if you wanted to rush to a destination, flying can be a lot cheaper, and faster.


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