Some days, there’s just not enough coffee in the world to keep you awake. While it may lead to awkward moments of yawning at work or nodding off during dinner conversation, fatigue is a much more serious matter once you start thinking about getting behind the wheel of a car.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators ranks fatigue as the third most common factor in car crashes in the country – behind impaired driving and speeding or aggressive driving. According to data published in 2009, fatigue played a role in 21 percent of all car crashes. The worst part is that it is completely preventable.

First things first. If you’re feeling tired – don’t drive! Driving requires your full attention, so drive only when you are feeling rested and alert. Even a little fatigue can be deadly. It’s worse on long drives, but you can also nod off on a short drive.

When you’re driving, keep your mind moving and active. Talk radio or upbeat music can keep you attentive, especially during a long drive. If you are going on a long haul, another person in the car can help keep you alert or take over driving duties if you start to feel sleepy.

Your body and your brain are connected, so to stay alert, make sure to stay hydrated and well-nourished. Caffeine drinks might perk you up in the short run, but to stay sharp, you need to drink plenty of water and choose healthier snack options when you’re hungry, such as nuts or a piece of fruit. Also, make sure you have enough protein in your system. Foods rich in carbohydrates and fat will temporarily satisfy your hunger, but they’ll actually make you feel more sluggish down the road.

If you feel yourself getting sleepy or losing focus while driving, pull over and take a break. Whether it’s a simple stretch and some fresh air, a quick power nap, or a hotel bed, never feel pressured to keep driving when you’re tired.

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Aimee King
Aimee joined Slater Vecchio LLP in February 2007. Aimee has represented clients in both the Provincial and the Supreme Courts of British Columbia.