It's our two archenemies, fatigue and drowsiness, talking to us again in their usual monotones. They are indeed powerful, but they can be beaten with a little knowledge and planning. Let's practice the old adage—know your enemy. What are fatigue and drowsiness?
Fatigue is a weakness or weariness resulting from physical exertion or prolonged stress. It can be both physical and mental. Drowsiness is a state of lowered consciousness, reduced alertness, and dulled perception.
Knowing what they are is only the first part. We also need to know what causes them and how to fight them. They usually occur in prolonged riding because of monotony, tight schedules, heavy traffic, or bad weather. After two to four hours of continuous riding, the central nervous system becomes fatigued, senses become dulled, and perception is lowered.
Highway hypnosis can sneak up on you. Highway hypnosis is the drowsiness caused by lack of visual and physical stimulation while riding. Several things contribute to it—straight, unvarying roads, riding alone at night, few riding operations and being surrounded by the monotonous engine sound.
How can you fight these enemies? If you've had a hard day, physically or mentally, you need plenty of sleep before riding. Don't plan to start for Big Bend after work. Go home. Sleep. Leave the problems of work behind and get a fresh start in the morning. Plan the trip for no more than two hours of straight road at a stretch. Vary your speed, lane, and lane position. Listen to the radio, or better yet, talk on the CB or to your co-rider. Take rest breaks. They help to raise alertness levels.
Riding demands more attention and requires more skills than driving. You need that extra edge--not just when you start your trip, but always. A little planning can keep you sharp and safe for the whole trip.