Alert Drivers

Staying alert at the wheel keeps you and your passengers safe.

Alert drivers, illustration by Michael Klein

Don't drive around in a bubble. Find ways to help yourself stay awake and aware behind the wheel.

Via's readers sip water, sing along with CDs, play license plate bingo, munch sunflower seeds, and tune in to audiobooks to stay sharp on drives. Here are more tips.

"Bubble gum!" says Kristine Christner of Cool, Calif. "I try to blow the perfect bubble."

"We bring our dog," writes Vicky Grogg of Portland. "She forces us to stretch our legs every few hours."

"I make up songs for things I see," says Mary Lou Kramer-Bickner of Fairbanks, Alaska.

"Get sandwiches at one exit, a side dish later, and dessert farther on," suggests Lynn Strom of Red Bluff, Calif.

"Always refill the tank at half empty," says Frank Weingart of Auburn, Calif. "Then use the chance to walk around."

"Practice pronunciation with foreign language recordings," suggests Chérie Newman of Missoula, Mont.

"Turn up the air conditioner," says Kevin Wei of San Jose.

"To stay alert for long hours as a bombardier in World War II, I wiggled my face and mouth sideways, round in circles, and up and down," writes Will Hutchins of Ukiah, Calif. "At 85, I still find it eases eye fatigue."

"A heated argument with your spouse will keep you alert on long drives," says Ron Grabowski of Coquille, Ore. "The trick is to make up just as you arrive."

"I practice driving meditation, focusing all my attention on the act of driving: how I hold the wheel, the vehicles around me, the road surface, everything," says Tricia Hoffman of Sebastopol, Calif."

"Our family always needs breaks. We get out and do jumping jacks and lunges or play football," writes Keri Pardella of Corte Madera, Calif.

"I listen to books on tape. Harry Potter can get me from Portland to Bozeman and back," says Haralle Weintraub of Portland.

"Before a trip, I find comedy MP3s to download," says Sarah Wagstaff of Petersberg, Alaska. "I can't fall asleep or get bored while laughing."

"Use a spray bottle of hydrosol, the soluble components of aromatic plants captured by steeping in water," suggests Kathryn Nance of Santa Cruz, Calif. "Rosemary is particularly refreshing."

"I brush my teeth as I drive. No water or toothpaste required, and when I arrive I have nice, clean teeth," says Rose Marie of Las Vegas.

"Create a story using only the words you see on road signs," suggests Tim Strauch, of Roseville, Calif.

"My husband makes CDs of music with fun, hidden messages," writes Rachel Bryant of Cool, Calif. "I never know what he's going to say when."

"We spell road signs backwards, trying to pronounce the new words," says Joyce Harold of Scotts Valley, Calif. "Not only does it keep us awake, it's also educational."

"I carry a tape recorder to record the unique names of roads, rivers, and towns, as well as the scenery and the differences in landscape," says Donna Wright of Ashland, Ore.

"I see how many miles per carrot I can travel, chewing one mini-carrot at a time," writes Mary Hoisington of Redding, Calif.

"We like to geocache. We use our GPS to go on high-tech treasure hunts near the interstate," says Patrick Callahan of Cottonwood, Calif. "It gives us something new to talk about on the trip."

"We always carry a supply of semisweet chocolate chips," write Jim and Pam Nettleton of Bend, Ore. "When we walk by a huge bag of chocolate chips at Costco, we say, ‘There's a real coast-to-coast trip.' "

"Squeezing a wrist exerciser keeps you awake without distracting you from the road," suggests Steve Herrlinger of Rough & Ready, Calif. "Before my wife and I were married, I had to drive two hours to see her. She often commented that I had very muscular arms."

"I pull off at designated times and run around my car or stomp my feet. The body goes to sleep from the feet up," says Jerry Conant of Brookings, Ore.

"Invite someone you haven't had a chance to talk to in a long time and use the trip to catch up on each other's lives," suggests Barbara Mallonee of Palm Springs, Calif. "I've done this with my daughter and cherish the great memories."

Illustration by Michael Klein

This article was first published in May 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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