The Nullarbor’s lifeline is the Eyre Highway—a road stretching 1,675 kilometers across. Crossing the Nullarbor is all about the long road, the exciting journey and the surprise stops. Long drives, however, can be a challenge. Driving is a surprisingly tiring task–the sedentary nature of it and the mental concentration required can contribute to the stress a driver experiences on the road. It requires intense focus in the midst of all the bumps, the road rage and other distractions, and on a road as long as the Eyre, staying focused (and safe) is a feat.

If you’re about to cross the Nullarbor on your trustworthy automobile, you could find these tips on keeping your focus useful.

  • Never drive while tired.

Driver fatigue is one of the biggest dangers out there: studies show there are thousands of police-reported crashes which are the direct result of driver fatigue. This results in a staggering number of injuries or worse, along with millions in monetary losses. It is a silent threat; unlike drunk driving, there are no tests such as the “Breathalyzer” to determine drowsiness and sleepiness. It’s up to drivers to determine whether they’re tired before getting behind the wheel.

This danger is one Nullarbor drivers should be aware of. As we all know, people are more likely to fall asleep on long and straight rural highways.

So how can you make sure that you’re not too tired to drive? According to Australian Police resources, these are the signs that should tell a driver to stop and rest:

  • you keep yawning
  • your reactions slow down
  • you feel stiff
  • your eyes feel heavy
  • you find you are day dreaming
  • you wander over the centre line or on to the edge of the road.
  1. Get plenty of sleep

Most of the time, the cause of fatigue is lack of sleep. If you’re the designated driver on your big Nullarbor trip, make sure you get adequate sleep, especially if you’re going alone. If you have a passenger, make sure he or she is also well-rested before getting behind the wheel.

Take short breaks (15 minutes) every 2 hours to break the boring monotony of the long road. If you’re feeling the symptoms of fatigue, don’t hesitate to stop and take a 15-20 minute nap. Be warned though: napping for longer than 20 minutes can make you groggy for at least five minutes after waking up.

During a long drive, caffeine is your friend. To maximise the effects of caffeine, it’s advised to take a 15-20 minute nap right after consuming a caffeinated beverage. Caffeine does not replace good quality sleep!

feature image driver sign

  1. Avoid distractions.

Just because you’re well-rested before a drive doesn’t guarantee focus. Long stretches of road can be a challenge, especially if there are no significant changes in the scenery around you. In scenarios like this, it’s tempting for a lot of people to check their phones and other devices, but don’t fall into the trap! Even while your phone beeps, resist the urge to pick it up and text while driving.

This infographic reports that at least 23% of all reported car collisions are the result of texting and driving.

Most likely, you’re an experienced driver with years under your belt, so you think you’ve got it under control. The truth is the average time it takes for people to take their eyes off the road to text is about five seconds, and if you’re running at 110 km/h, that’s enough time to cover the distance of a footy field. If not for yourself, consider the danger that 5 seconds pose on the lives of other people.

Aside from texting while driving, there are other distractions a driver should always be careful when doing:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading (including maps)
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or mp3 player

On your big Nullarbor trip, make sure that your focus is on nothing but the road. If you need a break, pull over.

There are wonderful roadhouses in the Nullarbor where you could rest and eat. Nullarbor Roadhouse, for one, is a good place with great people and wonderful food; the perfect stop to rest and refocus.

  1. Careful of the medications you’ll be taking pre-drive.

Certain medications simply just doesn’t go well with driving.

Some of these medications are:

Pain relievers – a lot of over-the-counter pain medications can cause you to relax (especially during cases of recurring pain) and impair your coordination and reaction time. “When your pain drops off, so does your adrenalin and you feel exhausted. You feel so relieved that your judgment and coordination is off,” says Norman P. Tomaka, spokesperson for the Pharmacists’ Association. Postpone your roadtrip or have someone else do driving for a day or so after the intense pain has subsided.

Antihistamines – since most antihistamine brands now has a non drowsy counterpart, most people fail to check the labels and assume that all of them are. Don’t forget to check yours!

Antidepressants – Some antidepressants can cause drowsiness and a slowness of reaction time in some patients. This is not to say that one should never drive while taking antidepressants, but it’s advisable to hold off driving when you just started drinking them. Wait for your body to acclimate to the medication.

Antihypertensives – blood pressure medications may cause listnessness, especially beta blockers. “If you are used to a blood pressure of 150/90, go on hypertensive, and your numbers drop to 120/80, that may zap your energy. The sluggishness usually goes away in the period of a week or two in most people, but be aware of it when you first take the medication,” Tomaka advises.

straight long road

Here at the Nullarbor Roadhouse, we want you to make the most of your Outback adventure, and an integral part of that is ensuring that your trip is a safe one. Read the following entries on dangerous animals to look out for while camping in the Nullarbor, dealing with the Nullarbor’s poisonous flora and important survival tips when camping away from civilisation.

To make the most out of your Nullarbor experience, drop by the Nullarbor Roadhouse — your home in the Nullarbor.