Modern cars are designed to keep their occupants safe, comfortable, and relaxed on the road, and there is no shortage of features used for the task.
While the vehicle you drive is designed to support your wellbeing on the road, many drivers have the opportunity to improve their own comfort, alertness, safety, and stress levels behind the wheel by making a few very simple changes to their habits.
Here are some tips and advice proven to help drivers fend off stress and discomfort, two things that can make driving miserable and lead to potentially life-altering collisions.
Being prepared is the foundation for a safe and stress-free drive.
In winter, that might mean a quick check of your fuel and washer fluid levels before a road trip, some cleaning to the vehicle’s exterior lights for better visibility, and ensuring your vehicle is healthy, well maintained, and running a set of appropriate tires inflated to the proper pressure.
Do you have extra food, power, and warmth in case of a breakdown? Is your cellphone charged? Did you bring a backup charger? A quick check to make sure everything’s road-trip-ready can give you a lot less to worry about.
Start With Your Seat
Setting up the perfect seating position can help dramatically improve safety and comfort behind the wheel. A proper seating position helps drivers sit alert and upright, and makes it easy for them to rest their head in a position where their eyes can look as far up the road as possible.
I like to ensure my seat is positioned so that I can comfortably sit with my nose pointing out the windshield, not at the dashboard. To check for proper positioning, I rest my wrists on the top of the steering wheel, make sure my shoulder blades are touching the back of my seat, and ensure there is a slight bend in the elbow.
Look as Far Ahead as Possible
The seating position you created in the previous tip should help make it easier to keep your eyes focused as far up the road as possible. Keeping your eyes up is a vital part of safe and controlled driving. In fact, it’s one of the first techniques that race car drivers learn in their training.
“When you drive down the road, looking further away slows down how quickly the scenery comes at you,” says Carl Nadeau, a winter driving safety expert. “If you just look up, everything slows down, it’s easier to process, and it can help drivers to relax, which is vital to safety.”
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Keeping your eyes up can reduce stress and anxiety at the wheel, especially in inclement weather or heavy traffic. Looking far down the road also means you’ll see potential hazards sooner, which gives you more time to react and avoid them.
Most drivers don’t look far enough up the road, but this bad habit is easy to fix. Try this powerful tip the next time you go for a drive and you’ll see an instant improvement.
Protect Your Eyes
Eye protection matters, and that’s especially true in winter and spring when your motoring environment is full of bright, reflective surfaces like snow, ice, and puddles. A set of quality driving glasses or sunglasses makes life easier on your eyes, protecting your most valuable safety system.
By reducing the need to squint, driving glasses make it more comfortable to see on bright days. This reduces eye strain, which can help ensure your eyes are performing their best if you’ll be driving later in the evening after the sun goes down, too.
With your eyes protected from excessive glare, it’s more comfortable to see detail further away, and to keep your eyes focused as far up the road as possible. A quality set of driving glasses can also fend off headaches, and will make for a safer and much more comfortable drive.
A Hack for Winter Visibility
When driving in winter, your headlights and taillights will get caked with road debris like salt and sand. This is a safety hazard and can contribute to eye strain and eye fatigue because when your headlights are dirty, you can’t see potential hazards as far up the road. When taillights get dirty, it’s also harder for other motorists and pedestrians to spot you in the dark.
Drivers can clean their dirty lights when refuelling at the gas station, but there’s an easy way to do it on the go in about 30 seconds.
I keep a plastic garbage bag and a roll of paper towels in my car all winter long for this tip. When my headlights get dirty, I pull over, wad up some paper towel, and place it over the jets where the windshield washer fluid comes out. Then, I go back to the car and apply the washer spray. The jet will spray washer fluid into the paper towel, which can then be used to clean the headlights and taillights whenever you like. When you’re done, place the dirty paper towel into the garbage bag and dispose when you get home.
Pick Energizing, Healthy Snacks
Peak performance of the human body is subject to many factors, and the food and drinks we consume are some of the biggest among them. Many motorists reach for salty or sweet snacks, caffeine, candy, soda, and other processed foods for a quick bite or beverage on the move.
There’s an opportunity for improvement, however.
Ditching excessive caffeine for water, replacing sugary snacks with ones rich in fibre and protein, and avoiding processed ingredients like refined sugar or flour can help drivers more effectively maintain energy levels and alertness behind the wheel.
Sugary snacks and caffeine can leave drivers feeling a mental crash, cause dehydration, and even restrict the uptake of certain vital nutrients in your food. Processed sugar can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate, with negative consequences to energy and alertness.
My road trip lunch bag usually contains nuts, beef jerky, cheese, a protein bar, a high-fibre granola bar, and plenty of water.
Avoid the Worst Place on the Highway
If you’re travelling along a busy multi-lane highway, it’s easy to get stressed out at the wheel. Elevated stress levels come with difficulty in processing information about your motoring environment and slows down how quickly you can react to it.
One way to instantly ease stress levels on busy highways is to make sure you’re not driving in the worst possible place to be: on another motorist’s tail.
When you’re cruising at speed a car length or two behind another vehicle, you can’t see as far up the road as you need to. This means you’ll have less time to react to a hazard like a pothole, piece of road debris, black ice, or the driver in front of you slamming on the brakes.
Tailgating is a dangerous and stress-inducing habit that robs the driver of important information and makes it harder to react to changing situations.
Drivers must maintain and guard a clear space between them and the vehicle in front on the highway at all times. Increase that gap accordingly with weather conditions and adjust your speed to maintain that gap at all times. By driving to ensure there’s an empty space in front of you at all times, you can create a safety bubble in traffic, which could save your life and reduce stress levels while driving.