While most executives are used to long commutes and travel schedules, often it’s the longer drives for vacations or college tour/drop off’s that take their toll. However, planned carefully, road trips can be full of fun and allow your family to experience many new adventures.
Most importantly, keep in mind that the goal is to get to your destination safely. Trying to cram the most miles per day can subject you to more than a speeding ticket – errors in judgment can lead to a traffic accident. Pace yourself and take breaks. Not only is non-stop driving more dangerous, ultimately you will end up at your destination tired, cranky, stiff and sore.
In fact, taking breaks is so critical that Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Hours of Service (HOS) are carefully regulated. Here in the US, operators can only drive 11 cumulative hours during a 14-hour period, with a rest period of no less than 10 consecutive hours.
Keeping those guidelines in mind, it’s important to avoid one of the most common dangers – fatigue. Try to plan your trip during daylight hours. Most people are already tired from a busy day, and blinding headlight glare from oncoming traffic and/or a limited visual field can compound the problem.
And because you are sitting for long periods, you aren’t getting full amounts of oxygen which helps stimulate your brain to keep you alert. If you find yourself battling “road hypnosis” and you can’t readily stop for a break, refocus on other nearby objects to help prevent weaving or worse – nodding off. Fix this by turning the vents on full, turning on the air conditioning, or opening a window. Sit up straight and practice simple deep-breathing exercises. Also try changing your seating position to improve blood circulation and stretch muscles.
A road trip isn’t an excuse to stop eating healthy. Pack a cooler with water or a thermos of coffee or tea, and bring light protein rich foods like cheese, meat and nuts. When possible, stop at a farmers market for fresh fruits and vegetables, and consult travel journals or magazines to find excellent regional specialties. Avoid heavy fast foods, fried foods and artificially sweetened items.
Chewing gum or ice is a great quick fix as it increases alertness by stimulating facial muscles. And interestingly, according to an article in Woman’s Day Magazine by Amy Capetta, (April 2008) “Stay Alert Behind the Wheel”, “Researchers at West Virginia’s Wheeling Jesuit University found that the scents of peppermint and cinnamon boost alertness while cutting fatigue in drivers.”
It goes without saying that safe driving means paying attention. Plan your route ahead of time so all of your attention is on safe driving. Avoid talking on cell-phones, don’t text, and minimize playing with your CD or radio.
If you are planning a road trip this summer, check in with your doctor at EHS Corporate Care to make sure you have an adequate supply of prescription medications and that you are in good health and ready for a safe and healthy journey. Happy travels!
John P. Mamana, M.D.