How to Drive When You’re Exhausted (And Stay Alive!)

Have you ever been exhausted, but you need to keep driving? You may need five more rides to achieve a bonus.

You may need to hit a revenue goal to cash out and pay the rent or buy some food to bring home to the family.

In my case, back when I was a full-time driver, I would work hard to achieve every bonus possible. It was common for me to drive from 4 AM to 8 PM. I always stopped for a lunch break. Still, that was at least fifteen hours.

If you do this consistently, you will feel tired, bordering on feeling like being drunk.

In this article, I will share some of my strategies for driving tired. I get it.

Sometimes, it seems like you have no choice. So, what are the best ways to keep driving and stay as safe and productive as possible? Let’s jump in.

If you're tired from driving, take a rest and don't push yourself.
If you're tired from driving, take a rest and don't push yourself.


Both Uber and Lyft limit your daily driving to 14 hours. Most of us use both apps, so the time restriction doesn’t mean anything.

Still, I am amazed that someone in Uber and Lyft corporate decided that 14 hours was a safe number of hours to drive daily.

For any other job, eight hours is the limit. You will get time and a half if you push that eight hour limit.

However, with Uber and Lyft, they don’t seem to care about any of that. Go ahead and drive eight hours. Heck, go ahead and drive six more hours on top of that.

As someone who has driven those 14 hours many times, I will tell you those are unsafe and dangerous. What can you do to make them as safe as possible?

Change Your Routine

Have you heard of highway hypnosis?

It happens when you drive on a freeway and suddenly realize you have been going for ten minutes without focusing on the road.

Instead, you have been lost in thought.

When experiencing highway hypnosis you need to do something that will wake you up.
When experiencing highway hypnosis you need to do something that will wake you up.

When I am this tired, I need to mix it up.

For example, I will stop at least each hour and take a short two to three-minute walk. Stopping your car, getting out of your car, walking, looking at something different than the road, and then getting back into your car will wake you up.

That is the goal of all of these strategies: Wake Up.

Drink Caffeine/Splash Water On Your Face

Like it or not, a coffee drink will help you to wake up. My drink of choice is a Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks. All Starbucks have a bathroom.

I recommend going into the bathroom, doing your business, and then splashing cold water on your face. The cold water, combined with the caffeine, will help to refresh you and allow you to drive further into your shift.

Another form of caffeine that I kept in my car was the 5-Hour Energy drink. It works like an easy-to-consume shot of energy.

Jay always keeps an energy drink on hand.

They are powerful and can carry me for three to five more hours.

Blast Your Face With Air

This one works.

When you feel so tired you don’t think you can keep your eyes open, stick your head out of the window, and let the air hit you at 70 miles per hour. During the winter, this will wake you up.

Using your hand to force the air hard into your face is the trick. Suppose you have a moon roof; even better. Open the moon roof, and press your hand to force the air onto your face.

Having the air hit your face works to keep you awake.
Having the air hit your face works to keep you awake.

It will wake you up, even if only for another half an hour. I used the technique during one of the most strenuous trips of my life.

I drove from Boston to San Francisco in 50 hours. I left, stopped in the middle for a 4-hour nap in my car, and then finished the trip.

Going over the mountains, from Reno to Sacramento, I was so tired, and only the cool mountain air on my face kept me going.

I don’t recommend ever trying something so stupid.

Call Someone And Start Talking

If you are tired but have to keep going, then in between passengers, call a friend or family member and have a conversation. This will engage your mind and help keep you alert and awake.

I like to call my daughter or one of my best mates. “Hey Brent, I am driving and feeling tired. Talk to me and tell me what’s going on.” This is another form of changing your routine.

By continually mixing up your activities, your mind will have a more challenging time relaxing, keeping you alert longer.

Play Music Or Podcast

Nothing can wake me up faster than Led Zeppelin playing at volume level 20 throughout my 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid.

Play your favorite playlist loud and sing along to it keep you awake.

We all have that music group or artist that reminds us of our teenage years and stirs primal energy.

For me, it is Led Zeppelin. For you, it may be AC/DC, Steely Dan, or Kanye West.

Whatever it is for you, play it loud. It will wake you up and possibly save your life.

Driving tired is no joke. If you make just one mistake, you can damage yourself and, God forbid, someone else.

A podcast also helps, as long as it's entertaining and making you laugh hard.

The less impactful option is to put on an engaging podcast. These days, everyone is doing a podcast. You can hear just about anybody talking on any topic that interests you.

The key here is that it can’t be a boring podcast. It must be engaging. Ideally, it makes you laugh out loud.

For me, Bill Burr is the guy. I listen to his podcast, and I laugh out loud. Laughter wakes me up.

Stop Driving

Sometimes, n0thing will work, and you have to stop driving. I have been so tired several times that I nodded off and woke up as I crossed the road divider.

That will start you back awake, but it should also tell you it is time to get home and sleep. You should never push yourself so hard that you fall asleep at the wheel.

I admit that I have been fortunate on a few occasions. Now I know when to stop. It should feel like a strong “Halt” from your body to your brain.

You will know it; the key is to recognize and honor it and get off the road before you hurt yourself or someone else.

Tips for driving safely and the do's and dont's.
Tips for driving safely and the do's and dont's.

Key Takeaways

Here is an excellent graphic I found in the Times of India. It summarizes some of the critical points of this article.

Safety first.

The bottom line is you have to stay safe. You have passengers in your car and are responsible for their safety. If you feel tired, use these strategies. If you know you are toast and can’t go on, then don’t go on.

There will always be another bonus. You can always work after a good night’s sleep tomorrow to make more money.

Remember the big picture and live to drive another day.

Take care and be safe out there.