I would really like for your driving holiday to be enjoyable and not filled with tragedy. Here are my best tips for not only surviving the drive but also enjoying it.
1. Plan your driving holiday well. Have the family discuss a journey management plan, where you briefly plan each part of the drive, noting places of interest to stop every couple of hours. It could be an interesting shop, landmark, playground for the kids to expend some energy or your favourite bakery. If it is fun or interesting, you will stop and break up the trip. Consider an overnight stop on those long drives of more than five or six hours.
2. Check the vehicle or have it checked a week or so before you go. Check all fluids and have extra coolant and oil. Make sure the spare tyre is in good condition and inflated to the right pressure. Clean the inside of the car and have a rubbish bag and a first aid kit.
3. Have everything packed well in advance and don’t leave it till the last minute. Make up lists of what you will need (fishing, kayaking, cooking) and have a spot to start getting it together. Have kids help make up their list and cross each item off as they go. Aim to have all items ready the day before you pack the vehicle. Don’t let packing make you stressed!
4. Make sure you are able to go to bed early and get sufficient sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you might find your brain driving you to sleep at the wheel. To ensure you get time for sleep, take an extra hour or two off work to get home early afternoon and start packing the vehicle. Have a meal slow cooking or order take-out to reduce the amount of work you need to do.
5. Don’t get up early to avoid the traffic. Most people like to do this, however, there is evidence suggesting that driving prior to 6.00 am makes you get up too early and the result is driving tired. Many fatal fatigue crashes have occurred due to this. Try and sleep at least seven to eight hours and wake up fresh. Rather than beat the traffic, let the traffic go early so that your drive is more pleasant.
6. Have a plan to share the driving if you have a capable driving passenger. Research has shown that when drivers drive fatigued, they have often had the opportunity to swap drivers but did not. If you plan to swap drivers during the drive, you are more likely to.
7. If your passengers go to sleep, you might too. Many fatigue crashes I have investigated have had passengers asleep. If they are asleep, you do not apply alerting strategies, such as stopping, winding down the window, getting music playing to decrease boredom, etc. Have your passengers sleep well the night before and ensure they converse with you on the trip.
8. Mobile phones are for passengers only. Get passengers to do your texting and making calls. There is absolutely no excuse for texting/calling while driving. Get the family interested in the drive and the places you might visit when you stop for breaks.
9. Make up a meal and snacks. Most people on long drives pull into a roadhouse or café to eat. It is easier to order fast food, so you get on the road quicker. The problem is, it will be mostly deep-fried and/or high in carbohydrates that may make you feel drowsy. Organise to take healthy snacks of cut-up fruit and tasty proteins (nuts, boiled eggs, chicken, jerky, etc). Have a picnic at one of the designated stops on your journey management plan. Take plenty of fresh water.
10. Don’t drive past your limits. Most drivers are not professionals (like truck drivers) and are not good at estimating how far they can go before needing a rest. Importantly, sleepiness portends sleep. If you feel sleepy, it is likely you will fall asleep at the wheel. Be smart and change drivers or stop.
About Nicholas Mabbott
Dr Nicholas Mabbott is a Fatigue Risk Management Specialist with over 24 years of experience in sleep science and fatigue risk management. He has provided fatigue management training and education to more than 15,000 personnel. He also provides fatigue incident investigations and fatigue risk audits to organisations in oil and gas, transport, mining and a range of other sectors. His academic research work, coupled with workplace experience has shown that, in many cases, employee fatigue is derived from poor quality or quantity of sleep. For this reason, he pays attention to assisting individuals with sleep disorders or an inability to adjust to some of the work schedules undertaken, including shift work. In the last ten years, he has implemented his theory on sleep timing to assist people to get to sleep within minutes and achieve a full night of sleep.
For more information on the services Nicholas offer, please visit www.beyondmidnight.org