Most people think that driving is a simple, everyday task that requires little thought or effort. And for the more experienced drivers, this very well might be the case. But the fact of the matter is that driving can be tough for a host of reasons.
Driving is hard for some people because it consists of operating a heavy machine at high speeds over long distances in all kinds of environmental conditions, surrounded by other people sharing the same road. When you look at it this way, driving suddenly seems much more difficult.
Lucky for you, there are several things you can do to make driving easier:
- Find the optimal seat position for you
- Take breaks on longer trips
- Avoid driving in rush-hour traffic
- Plan your route in advance
- Get adequate rest
- Take a defensive driving course
- Always have sunglasses on hand
- Avoid distractions
- Have water and snacks with you on long drives
Driving can be tough, but it doesn't have to be. Keep reading to learn more about how you can simplify the act of driving to make your driving experience easier and safer.
Why is Driving So Hard?
Driving is tough for several reasons. Like we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different factors at play when operating a vehicle. We'll talk about each of these factors to better understand the challenges of driving.
Operating the Vehicle Itself
Though cars have become a staple of modern society and a seemingly mundane aspect of daily life, let's not overlook the inherent complexity of motor vehicle operation.
One of the biggest challenges of driving is the physical operation of the vehicle. Driving requires a lot of multitasking along with physical dexterity and overall acuity. The driver must manipulate the pedals, the steering wheel, and turn signals while taking in loads of visual information and responding accordingly. Simply put, drivers are very task-saturated at all times.
What's more, the act of driving consists of operating a very heavy machine at high rates of speed. Just think about it — when you're cruising down the highway, you're controlling a machine that could weigh up to several tons that are traveling upwards of 70 miles per hour. And as your speed increases, it gets more difficult to control the vehicle. Driving a vehicle is inherently complicated, and it's important to recognize it as such.
Take the already complicated nature of driving and tack on some distractions — cell phones ringing, music playing, passengers talking — and the act of driving suddenly becomes even more difficult.
These kinds of distractions make driving more difficult because they take the driver's attention away from the road. We've established that driving is already hard enough to begin with, but when the driver's attention is taken away from the actual task of driving, the chance of an accident increases exponentially.
And the fact of the matter is that drivers are more distracted than ever. Drivers face an onslaught of distractions, from text message notifications to a blaring radio. At this point, you might be thinking — haven't automotive manufacturers helped the problem by implementing all of the hands-free technology found in modern cars?
Well, yes and no. On the one hand, these features can reduce distraction, but only by a negligible amount. Hands-free features reduce the level of manual and visual distraction, but the cognitive distraction is still there. In other words, these features allow you to call someone without actually reaching for your phone, but the phone conversation will still take your focus off the road.
Check out the CDC statistics on distracted driving. This really puts the growing problem of distracted driving in perspective.
Sharing the Road With Other Drivers
The number of licensed drivers in the U.S. has steadily increased over the years. Pair that with ever-increasing life expectancy, and the result is a constantly growing number of drivers sharing the road. Infrastructure like roads, highways, and bridges simply can't expand fast enough to keep up with the growing number of motorists.
Simply put, the more drivers there are on the road, the more difficult it is to drive safely. This is largely because motorists have to be mindful of their own vehicle and everyone else on the road. The result is a more stressful driving experience.
The environment is a factor that seems subtle, but it constantly affects the ease or difficulty of driving.
For example, if you're driving west when the sun is setting, you're in for a particularly unpleasant commute. The sun will make it difficult to see virtually everything around and in front of you.
Similarly, driving at night in a heavy rainstorm will be significantly more difficult than driving in dry conditions during the day.
Even wind can adversely affect the driving experience. If you've driven for any length of time, you've likely felt strong wind gusts make your car sway slightly. At highway speeds, these crosswind situations can prove difficult to manage.
Are you starting to see how every little environmental factor plays a big role in the overall driving experience?
9 Tips to Make Driving Easier
Now that we've talked in-depth about what makes driving difficult let's discuss some of the things you can do to make it easier.
1. Find the Optimal Seat Position For You
The position of the seat can have a significant impact on the driving experience. If the seat position isn't just right, you can easily become distracted thinking about your discomfort rather than the road in front of you.
We recommend adjusting the seat to the desired position before you even put your vehicle in gear. This will ensure that you're nice and comfortable for the duration of the trip.
Making sure you're comfortable is a great way to make driving easier before you even hit the road.
2. Take Breaks on Longer Trips
On longer trips, it's important to take breaks regularly. This will prevent drowsiness and help you remain mentally alert. If possible, have someone else ride with you and switch off every hour or so.
3. Avoid Driving in Rush-Hour Traffic
Rush-hour traffic is stressful for even the most experienced drivers. During rush-hour, the roads are more congested than ever, as drivers are either scrambling to get to work on time or trying to get home as quickly as possible (often at the expense of everyone's safety).
Our recommendation is to avoid driving in rush-hour, if at all possible, and that goes for any experience level drivers. Do what you can to adjust your driving schedule to avoid these peak times. Your commute will be safer and much more pleasant.
4. Plan Your Route in Advance
The benefit of using one of these programs in advance is twofold. Once you know what route to take, you don't have to deal with the stress that comes with following directions from your phone in real-time. You'll already know where to go, which means you'll have one less thing to worry about behind the wheel.
This will also prevent the manual and cognitive distractions associated with using a GPS navigator in real-time. You, your passengers, and fellow motorists will be much safer as a result.
5. Get Adequate Rest
Adequate rest is essential for safe driving. If you're going on a long road trip, it's critical that you get enough sleep the night before.
6. Take a Defensive Driving Course
One of the best things you can do to make driving easier is to take a defensive driving course. Defensive driving courses teach drivers how to have more situational awareness on the road. There are countless reputable courses available online, so take your pick!
As a bonus, you might even get a discounted car insurance rate by completing one of these courses.
7. Always Have Sunglasses On Hand
When it comes to driving, sunglasses are a must. We recommend keeping a pair in your vehicle for not only those bright and sunny days but also dark nights.
Yes, you read that right. Believe it or not, some glasses are designed for both day and night time use. The polarized lenses help eliminate harmful glare during the daytime and reduce the dazzling effects of lights at night time. Check out the Optix 55 anti-glare polarized glasses.
8. Avoid distractions
Hopefully, you already know that you should never text while driving. However, if you find driving to be difficult and challenging, it's best to avoid talking on your cell phone while driving, even if you're using the car speakerphone. Even if that's legal, studies show that talking on the phone takes your focus away from the road.
This experiment by Mythbusters proves the point -
9. Stay hydrated and have snacks with you
If you're planning a long road trip, make sure you have cold drinks and snacks with you. These can help break the monotony of the drive. However, remember to always keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road! Either have someone in the car with you who can help you, or prepare your snacks and drinks in a place that you can reach while keeping your focus on the road. The safest solution of all? Pull over in designated areas, stretch your legs, and enjoy your snacks safely.
Does Driving Get Easier With Time?
If you're a new driver that's simply overwhelmed with it all, you can rest assured that driving gets easier with time. We can tell you from experience that, with practice and time, driving becomes second nature.
The fact that driving gets easier with time is primarily why automotive insurance companies reduce their rates once a driver turns 25. Their line of thinking is that younger, less experienced drivers are a greater liability. So what does this have to do with driving getting easier? Think about it — insurance companies wouldn't reduce their rates unless they were confident that drivers become more comfortable with the act of driving over time.
Why Does Driving Make You Drowsy?
Have you ever felt exhausted when driving? Odds are that you've at least fallen asleep in the passenger seat a time or two. Virtually everyone can agree that driving seems to cause fatigue, but why is this?
According to an Australian study cited by the Sleep Doctor, the low-frequency vibrations felt in a moving vehicle cause drowsiness. According to the study, these effects can manifest after a mere 15 minutes, and they peak at 60 minutes.
Highway hypnosis is a phenomenon that's closely tied to drowsy driving. Simply put, highway hypnosis is the drowsy, trance-like state that occurs when driving on long stretches of the open road for long periods of time. When a driver is under highway hypnosis, they are significantly less alert of their surroundings. In fact, in this state, drivers can go for miles without conscious recollection of it. Sound dangerous? It absolutely is.
Despite its name, highway hypnosis isn't just limited to the highway. Drivers can be lulled into the same trance-like state on any road if the conditions are right.
One of the best ways to prevent or combat highway hypnosis is to deliberately shift your visual focus to different points every few seconds. This will keep your eyes and mind alert, which will make it much harder to fall into that trance-like state.
What To Do If You're Feeling Tired When Driving
If you feel drowsy behind the wheel,
There are several things you can do to stay alert when driving and prevent drowsiness:
- Get a good night's sleep the night before a long drive.
- Keep a cooler with ice-cold drinks within reach.
- Take frequent breaks to get out of the car and stretch your legs.
- If you're wearing sunglasses, take them off for a few minutes to let more light into your eyes.
- Talk with your passengers to keep your mind alert.
- Turn the temperature down.
- Drink plenty of water.
Young, healthy individuals may benefit from coffee snacks like the ones below. Just remember that caffeine can have its own side effects. Be aware of the amount of caffeine you're getting from candy while driving and don't overdo it.
If you prefer to avoid chocolate, here's a minty version -
Feeling Weird After Driving a Long Distance
Driving long distances is taxing for the vast majority of people. Long-distance driving seems to affect people differently — some people just feel tired after a long drive, while others feel somewhat ill or almost hungover.
Regardless of how you feel after a long drive, the explanation is simple — fatigue. Like we've said, driving can be complicated, and it requires a lot of focus and concentration. The level of concentration driving requires — especially over an extended period — will leave even the most experienced drivers feeling zapped. The best thing to do to get back to feeling normal is to get plenty of rest.
Join the Conversation
We hope this post has helped facilitate safe and responsible driving. If you take these steps and focus on driving safely, we're confident that driving will become second nature in no time. Please leave us a comment and join the conversation — we'd love to hear your advice for making driving easier!
If you are looking for more tips on how to be a stellar driver, check out: