Q In response to the suggestion about eating sunflower seeds to stay awake while driving, you asked for other ideas. The sunflower trick is a good one, and it works very well. On extra long, or extra late trips, I have also found that crunching on ice is helpful, especially if it is the ice left after drinking a caffeinated beverage.
However, there are times when the trip is so long, or I am just so tired, that even these two tried-and-true methods aren't enough to keep my eyelids from drooping dangerously low. Just last May, driving back from Chico late at night, while scooping ice from the small cooler on the seat next to me into my drink cup, I discovered that my hand started getting so cold it hurt. So now my last-resort method for staying awake is to stick my hand in a small cooler of ice water until the pain increases to the point of extreme wakefulness! Works every time!
A Here are other tips drivers offer to keep alert behind the wheel. The best strategy may be to share driving time with a passenger, or ...
Q Your request for tips on staying alert prompts me to give some simple advice -- pull off the road to a safe place and take a nap!
A Yes, and driving experts say a short 20-minute snooze is more effective than a long, slumbering nap at helping you remain awake when you resume driving.
Other tips offered by police and sleep experts:
Q Sunflower seeds are the best way to stay awake while driving. They are always in our car on long trips.
A And ...
Q I think you should differentiate between being tired and being drowsy. When I'm tired, a caffeinated drink or some high-energy music really helps. However, when I'm drowsy, I take a nearby exit and find a safe-looking parking lot or side street, recline the seat back, and take a short nap. Just 10-15 minutes or so makes a tremendous difference!
A And ...
Q My wife and I are traveling more now that we've retired, and on long road trips, we use bee pollen to perk us up and stay awake. It's cheap, about $5 per 100 at Walmart, has no side effects, and gives a gentle boost. I usually take one 550 mg capsule about noon, and another midafternoon, on a 10-hour driving day. It can also be useful when spending time with the grandkids and needing more energy.
A And ...
Q I always use sugarless bubble gum. Trying to blow bubbles and snapping the gum keeps me awake.
A And ...
Q My best advice for staying awake: Turn off the heater and turn on the AC (or just let the outside air in, if it's winter). On long drives, I find that a nice cozy car makes for a sleepy driver.
A Safety officials warn that rolling down a window is what many do, but it is not a great way to avoid being sleepy.
Q Drive while holding a $100 bill out the window. You won't dare fall asleep.
A That would keep me awake!