John Del Santo mcbwaycool at yahoo.com
Mon May 23 21:58:13 PET 2011

by John Del Santo
.   A recent nationwide study showed that at least 100,000 collisions happen each year caused by people falling asleep while operating motor vehicles.  I knew a man called ‘Bear’ who fell asleep three different times on motorcycle trips from Arizona to San Diego,  so it can happen to us, too.   After each incidence he woke up in the sand, lying near his bike .  If you were to ask a large gathering of motorcyclists for a show of hands on who has “Dozed behind the Handlebars”….even for a few seconds or worse….You would be surprised at the large percentage of riders who have experienced that. There have been several newsworthy incidents about excellent long-distance highway riders, who just rode right straight into the back of big trucks, without any apparent reason. 
Yawning a lot can be a sign that we are getting sleepy.  Yawning is a sign from our body telling us that it needs more oxygen….this is usually not a problem on a bike, because we are getting plenty of air, so if you are yawning while riding….your body is telling you something important.    
One of the disadvantages while riding is that the excess wind, noise and vibrations can wear our body out sooner than while driving a car.  If we recognize that fatigue sneaking up on us, then we are ahead of the game.  If we are traveling in a group, remember that different riders have different abilities, habits and needs…If one of your group needs to stop, the whole group should stop.  
Most falling-asleep accidents happen during daylight hours.  People 18 – 20 years old have the highest incidence of falling asleep behind the wheel, and commercial truck drivers have the least.  Adequate rest, planning and preparing for your trip and consuming the right food and drink are considered ideal steps toward having a safe ride.  Traveling during hours of the day when you are normally asleep is asking for trouble.  If you are drowsy, and figure that the wind will keep you awake on the ride home, then you will find that as bad an idea as the sleepy car drivers who think that rolling down the window will keep them awake. 
Ways to recognize fatigue while riding ?  Inability to focus; yawning;  loss of concentration;  poor memory of the last few miles that I traveled.   If my head nods ONCE,  or if I close my eyes and they feel sticky and don’t want to open, happens ONCE…….Get off the road RIGHT NOW….That may be the only warning that I will get before falling into deep sleep….maybe forever.  Thinking that we are only a few miles from a good destination,  and that we should be able to make it that far, would be a big mistake.  
Don’t fool yourself with stimulants…Using caffeine-based over-the-counter stimulants may get my brain awake, but when the buzz wears off,  we will crash into sleep immediately with no warning.
What to do next ?  Pull over and get a nap….many riders can sleep stretched-out on the tank of their bike, and there are many places like gas stations who will let you stretch out on one of their office chairs, if you explain the situation to them. When you wake up, have a cup of coffee, walk around some,  have a high-protein snack,  and see if you feel like going on.   If you are really tired grabbing a motel is always do-able…There is nothing in the world that can’t wait another day.  You would just need a really good story for your Significant Other explaining why you stayed away in a motel overnight. 
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