Matchsticks or Burning?

Sometimes I am asked how do I stay alert when driving at night time. Many of us have probably seen images of Mr Bean using various means to stay awake when driving a long distance through France through the night. These include using match sticks to keep his eyes open as well as putting his fingers into the cigar lighter to evoke pain to keep him alert.

I can honestly say that I have not tried either of those methods and neither do I intend to!

So, joking aside, how can this be done, when your body is naturally closing down at night time and wanting rest?

I have to say that those of us who work at night as well as day, need to find times to get the rest and sleep that our bodies need before we take to the road. So for me, preparation is key when I know in advance that I am going to be driving at night. My family also help me with this and keep reminding me to get the rest I need.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists, now call IAM Roadsmart, we have what we call a cockpit drill, P O W D E R Y, which is a check list to be used to ensure the car is ready for a journey but also ourselves. It checks the following:

P - Propulsion, is there enough diesel or petrol for the journey?

O - are the Oil levels correct?

W - do the Water levels need topping up?

D - is there any Damage on the body work of the car that needs fixing?

E - are the Electrics working correctly?

R - checking the Rubbers, so, tyres and wipers.

Y - You - so am I fit to drive?

Of the above, the last one mentioned is ourselves - we must only drive when fit to do so. So given this, my top tips that seem to work for me, knowing that these and, or others, work for different people, are the following. When passengers/clients are onboard, the temperature is often set for their comfort and not my own, so the below are the ones that work for me:

  • I give myself a running commentary of what I am observing on the route ahead, so that I am prepared for a change in road circumstances. I do not speak this out loud!

  • Extra strong mints and Fishermans Friends, help me to sharpen my mind

  • My seat is positioned so that it is not too comfortable - often very close to the dashboard

  • I alternate my air vents near me so that are focussed on my face or hands

Night time driving

Once I have delivered my clients and I am on my own in the car, I take a break as soon as I can, grab a coffee and then set myself up for the journey back to our base. Then, I do not have to keep the car cosy and warm and I can revert to whatever my body needs, so that can include the following:

  • Keeping my fluids up

  • Music

  • Make the car cool and open windows if needs be

  • Take appropriate breaks and rest

I hope the above helps anyone else, but the overriding rule, is that we should only drive when safe to do so. 

No more match sticks and burning fingers!!