Distracted and dozing
About the only way to account for some of the one vehicle crashes is that the driver was distracted from his driving responsibility or was dozing. Neither is a reasonable excuse, of course, because every driver should know that they must be constantly alert while behind the wheel. The responsible driver must train himself to resist these human weaknesses. We must bring ourselves to realize that it is too dangerous to let any worry over our problems distract us from our driving responsibility. If the problem is of such magnitude that we cannot “put it on the shelf” until the driving job is finished, then we’d better ask the boss to let us take time off to settle our mind.
It is important to keep in mind that driving a motor vehicle requires us to be continually making decisions. In order to make logical decisions, we must weigh all the facts. The only way we can have all the facts is to keep our attention focused where the action is—right there in front of our vehicle. Unless we train ourselves constantly to keep our attention on the road ahead, a lot of interesting scenes can hold our attention to the roadside. The responsible driver gives such distractions only a quick glance and turns attention back to the road ahead. To prevent drowsiness, the most practical way is to get plenty of sleep before starting a trip and to avoid that which induces drowsiness, such as heavy meals and alcoholic beverages. Bad air we breathe in a closed vehicle can make us drowsy as we ride along on soft, comfortable seat cushions. We should adjust our windows to admit cool, fresh air, and we should sit erect at the wheel. Slouching in the seat can increase our desire for sleep.
There are several things we can do to offset the drowsy feeling. A brief stop for coffee may do the trick—but beware of stronger stimulants, such as pep pills (amphetamines), which can have unpleasant side effects. Cold water or an ice cube in a cloth applied to eyelids, face and neck will be invigorating and should chase away drowsiness.
Brisk exercise will be helpful in overcoming sleepiness. When a driver gets out of the seat to do a few knee bends or push-ups it may look strange to passersby, but our driver won't be drowsy. Jogging briskly along the side of the road can restore tone to mind and muscle and bring us awake. If we have another driver with us, we can let that person take the wheel for a while, and we can relax. If there's no other choice, remember that nothing cures sleepiness like sleep. We can pull off the road at a safe place and take a catnap that will restore our alertness in a few minutes. Above all, we must never forget to keep constantly alert while driving.
*Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.