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Why you can’t rely on caffeine to carry you through a car trip

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Personal Injury

Summer is the time of year when a lot of folks take vacations – many of them traveling by car to far-flung destinations.

While any road trip can be exhilarating, fatigue can eventually set in during a long drive. While most people turn to caffeine as their go-to solution for drowsiness, you can’t rely on it for the whole trip to keep you awake. 

The science behind caffeine

Caffeine is widely considered to be the “drug of choice” for most people in the United States – and it is a drug. It works by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain, which is one chemical that causes drowsiness. That’s why caffeine works (temporarily) to make people feel more alert.

Unfortunately, as soon as the caffeine wears off, you need a second dose – and each subsequent dose tends to produce diminishing returns. Even worse, if you don’t get the boost from a new dose fast enough, you may experience a “caffeine crash” that makes it harder than ever to stay alert behind the wheel of your car. 

There are better alternatives

Caffeine can certainly have its place in your arsenal against drowsy driving, but consider adding these strategies:

  • Take regular breaks every couple of hours to stretch and give your mind and body a break
  • Make sure you’re not running on fumes by getting enough sleep the night before a trip
  • Drink plenty of water and other non-caffeinated beverages, since hydration is essential to maintain your energy levels and cognitive focus
  • Stay engaged by talking to your passengers or listening to music as you drive, so that you don’t “zone out” 
  • If you can, try to share the driving with your passengers so that everybody gets a chance to rest

Ultimately, if the fatigue gets crushing, don’t take chances: Find a place to stop and rest either overnight or for a few hours.

Despite your best efforts, you may end up in a wreck with a driver who was half-asleep behind the wheel. If that happens, it’s always wisest to seek tailored legal guidance.