By Darryl Alder
Jan 30, 2017

What Do You Do About Drowsy Driving On the Way Home?

Last Friday, I participated in Scouting’s single most dangerous activity—coming home from an event. Boy Scouts of America warns Scouters that driving to and from activities exposes our Scouts to more risk than any other thing we do in Scouting, especially if we drive drowsy after an activity.Drowsy_Banner

Drowsy Driving

Drowsy is defined as “ready to fall asleep; inducing sleep.”

By the very definition, when you are drowsy, you are going to fall asleep! Drivers are generally poor judges regarding their own level of fatigue and unable to predict when they are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. There are some danger signals to look for:

  • Your eyes are burning, feel strained, or are involuntarily going out of focus and closing.
  • Your head nods, or you can’t stop yawning.
  • You have wandering thoughts and daydreams.
  • You’re driving erratically or at abnormal speeds, drifting, tailgating, or missing traffic signs.
  • You catch yourself about to nod off.
  • You don’t remember the last several miles driven.
  • You cross over the rumble strips on the side of the pavement.
  • You have micro-sleeps, which are very brief sleep episodes.

These are serious danger signs, and anyone displaying them should not be driving.

Our trip includ­ed 12 hours of dri­ving each way. However, like other safe­ty-con­scious groups, we paused for a safe­ty moment. Our break was just after din­ner because at that time of day we were mov­ing into the risk zone.

Also, before we left, in a Safety PAUSE, we had agreed to take regular breaks to refresh and trade dri­vers, but now we were on our way home. It was getting dark, and there were six hours ahead of us. We took time to gather all 25 participants from our 5 vans, and we had a Safe­ty PAUSE to consider our top ten ways to prevent drowsy driving:

  1. When scheduling a trip, each per­son should “plan” for sleep. This is espe­cial­ly impor­tant for the return trip home.
  2. Start out well rest­ed. Before a trip, the more sleep the bet­ter!
    (We did slept well the night before, but along the way we asked our relief dri­vers to nap.)
  3. Start your trip ear­lier in the day instead of lat­er. Long-dis­tance dri­ving requires men­tal and phys­i­cal alert­ness.
    (We got an ear­ly start, as ear­ly as our train­ing meet­ing allowed, but we drove six hours in the dark. The body craves sleep after dark, so we drove what we could dur­ing day­light hours.)
  4. Share the dri­ving. Before leav­ing des­ig­nate licensed relief dri­vers.
  5. Engage the driver in light con­ver­sa­tion with a front seat pas­sen­ger.
  6. Keep the tem­per­a­tures cool and adjust the car tem­per­a­ture so it’s not too com­fort­able.
  7. Stay involved with the dri­ving; do not use cruise con­trol.
  8. Take fre­quent breaks. Stop and get out of the car at least once every two hours.
  9. Avoid sedat­ing med­ica­tions such as cold tablets, anti­his­t­a­mi­nes and/or anti­de­pres­sants.
  10. Con­sume caf­feinat­ed drinks such as cof­fee, tea, soft drinks, and ener­gy drinks. How­ev­er, caffeinat­ed drinks take up to 30 minutes to take effect, and have lim­it­ed effects on peo­ple who con­sume the­se drinks on a reg­u­lar basis (such as every day).

(We engaged our dri­vers dur­ing the trip home and stopped for some caf­feinat­ed drinks about mid­way through our trip.)

We all arrived home safe­ly, but not every unit has the same expe­ri­ence. So it begs the ques­tion, what do you do about drowsy dri­ving?

Share your best ideas in the com­ment sec­tion below.

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2 thoughts on “What Do You Do About Drowsy Driving On the Way Home?

  1. Scott MajorScott Major

    As I have traveled on the road, I have found that pulling over and having a 20 minute nap can do wonders on helping me stay awake. I know that is not always possible on every trip but it has made a huge difference for me in getting to where I need to go safely.

  2. AvatarMatt

    Crank the tunes. It helps keep the adrenaline flowing which is what keeps you awake. That and a steady supply of black coffee of course. Playing word games like 20 questions is another way to keeping blood flowing to the brain.


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