Back on Dry Land, Not Out of Danger - Driving Tired After Diving

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HalcyonDaze

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I've been saying it for a while now - diving, even the baited dives I do with sharks, is a heck of a lot safer than being on the road.

Well, last Saturday I almost proved my point. I very nearly killed myself and put others in mortal danger like a complete moron.

I live in Miami, but do most of my diving in Jupiter and West Palm Beach. For me this is about a 1:30-1:45 drive, taking either I-95 or the Florida Turnpike. In order to make an 8 am departure; I usually wake up between 4 and 4:30 am (putting me at the shop to pick up tanks around 7 and at the boat by 7:30). So unless I sack out extremely early Friday night (which I rarely accomplish), that's a short night of sleep followed by 3+ hours on the road and three 60 ft+ nitrogen doses. I also work an office job that of late has involved more stress than usual, so probably by Friday I'm a night short on sleep anyway. I've had a number of times when I've fought to stay awake on the drive home; I've told myself I should really crash on someone's couch or start booking a hotel room for my dive weekends but like a stubborn idiot I've figured nope, I really just want to go home after a long day.

Saturday that attitude nearly bit me in the ass. Did my usual routine, hopped in the car sometime between 4 and 5, and started driving home down I-95. Told myself I'd pull off at some point to stop in at a Starbucks, but every time I passed an exit I figured what the heck, the sooner I'm home the sooner I can take a nap. Made it over the Dade County line and after some time, I must have nodded off behind the wheel of my car while going at full highway speed. I have no idea how long I was out.

I woke up to a thumping noise and opened my eyes to see the front end of my car mowing down a row of those plastic sticks they use to mark off the express toll lanes. After that I got the car back under control and went on my way, being very ******* awake at that point. I was home probably 15-20 minutes later. Aside from some scraped paint and one lost detail piece off the front grill, there was no damage to the car; at that point I was too focused on flying straight and level to check around and make sure nothing had flown off and hit anyone else. I don't think that was the case. I hope that was not the case.

I got off very, very, VERY lucky. At the time that happened my foot probably pressed down even harder on the gas; I was likely doing over 70 mph. I could have hit another vehicle, or the highway divider, and that would have been over faster than you could say "Goodnight, Gracie." I did something that was arguably even dumber than driving drunk. And I did so knowing damn well I'd been dancing on that ledge many times and had been too stubborn to step back and take a safety precaution. Just a note for all - dive safety does not end when you get out of the water or get back on dry land. The day's not over until you're done traveling. Know your limits and know when it's time to call it quits for the day; for damn sure the next time I go out of town for a day of diving I'm either stopping to rest before I get back on the road or chugging a month's worth of my normal caffeine intake in one go.
 

krsy

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Thank you for this honest account. Am going to store this vital nugget of advice along with everything else I am learning. I will be diving with my husband and he usually drives, but I know the week before last driving back over from WPB to Ft Myers after my checkout dives ( we also took a wrong turn somehow) I was not the only one exhausted.
 

Stoo

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I've maintained for decades that the most dangerous thing about diving is the drive home. Most summer weekends, I am at my place in Tobermory, diving my face off, and probably not getting enough sleep at night. It's a 3.5 hour drive home. Most of the time, Mrs. Stoo is with me and when I am tired, she'll drive for a while... I am a master at the Power Nap. I also react "well" to caffeine since I don't drink it much. If I chug a tea or even a Coke, I can pretty drive all night.

Seriously though, it's something we all need to be aware of. There are studies out that suggest that tired drivers are as big a hazard as drunks... I tend to agree.
 

Neilwood

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Thanks for the details of your near miss. A very scary event when you realise that you have no idea how long you have dozed for.

I too have issues with sleep particularly if stressed but I would definitely take a break if I was feeling anywhere close to dozing behind the wheel. Better to spend even 20 minutes with your eyes closed resting than take the chance of sleeping at the wheel. Sometimes just resting is as good as sleep.

I would definitely not advise the caffeine loading - once the initial caffeine hit wears off the crash is deeper in my experience.
 

Storker

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I've maintained for decades that the most dangerous thing about diving is the drive home.
Agreed. With my kind of diving (cold water, DS with two bubbles to manage), optimal ascents and optimal offgassing don't always happen. And when I have two dives and/or I'm messing things up during my ascent(s), I'm getting a bit sleepy afterwards. That's one of the many reasons I've turned to nitrox and use EAN32 more or less on every dive.

IME post-dive fatigue is a real phenomenon. And as the OP showed, it can be quite dangerous. Anything that reduces post-dive fatigue is good, whether it's triangular depth profiles, slow ascents and extended safety stops or nitrox even for one or two dives during a single day.
 

Freewillow

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Agreed. optimal ascents and optimal offgassing

What divers should keep in mind is that most of the OFF Gazing is happening at the surface, when the dive is finished :).
 

Shasta_man

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Very glad you got the opportunity to be around to post this. Whether heater or aircon, it tends to get nice and comfy in the car and hypnotic driving down the highway. However, not sure you got the full lesson because you ended with I'll either sleep or drink coffee. NO, coffee is not good enough. Sometimes you just have to admit there are only so many hours in the day and rest is only optional for so long.
 

HalcyonDaze

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Very glad you got the opportunity to be around to post this. Whether heater or aircon, it tends to get nice and comfy in the car and hypnotic driving down the highway. However, not sure you got the full lesson because you ended with I'll either sleep or drink coffee. NO, coffee is not good enough. Sometimes you just have to admit there are only so many hours in the day and rest is only optional for so long.

Point taken, although I will note that for me coffee is the nuclear option. I've generally cut caffeine out of my life except as an "emergency resurrection" option; if I have too much during the day (say, two mugs of strong coffee) I'm going to be jittery as hell for at least eight hours and probably longer. The crash doesn't hit until after my usual bedtime. Sleep is a far better option and is what I will aim for, but if that option is not available I have a workable backup.

Another option is to do what I used to and opt for Sunday dives; it's a lot easier to have Saturday to rest up from the work week and have a fresh start to the dive day.

Agreed. With my kind of diving (cold water, DS with two bubbles to manage), optimal ascents and optimal offgassing don't always happen. And when I have two dives and/or I'm messing things up during my ascent(s), I'm getting a bit sleepy afterwards. That's one of the many reasons I've turned to nitrox and use EAN32 more or less on every dive.

IME post-dive fatigue is a real phenomenon. And as the OP showed, it can be quite dangerous. Anything that reduces post-dive fatigue is good, whether it's triangular depth profiles, slow ascents and extended safety stops or nitrox even for one or two dives during a single day.

My dive log for that day was as follows; we first hit the water at 0900 and I got out at 1330:

Dive 1: 36% EAN, max depth 89 ft with a long and slow ascent (midwater drift), total dive time 56 minutes, 53-minute SI.
Dive 2: 37% EAN, max depth 66 ft with a slow ascent (stationary on wreck and then drifting on the way up), total dive time 47 minutes, 53-minute SI.
Dive 3: 37% EAN, repeat of dive 2 profile for total dive time of 59 minutes.

So even with pretty good nitrox mixes and the second pair of dives not being particularly deep or strenuous, that was still a lot of nitrogen on top of a short ration of sleep. Arguably by the time it was over simple fatigue put me far, far more at risk of grievous bodily harm than the dozen or so lemon sharks on the second pair of dives.
 

KDAD

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I've caught myself dozing off like that while driving and when I start to feel that way now I try to pull over and take a nap. 15 or 20 minutes usually does rhe trick although one time I slept though probaby close to two hours.

I have been doing some night dives lately and depending upon the timing of high tide I may be getting out the water after midnight which makes for a sleepy 1 hour ride home. I think it's natural to keep pushing on when you are driving but at some point it is so much safer to pull over and rest
 

gcarter

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Driving home from the St Lawrence today after a 68 minute dive on Lock 23 I pulled over about half way through the not quite hour drive home for a 10 minute power nap. Better to take longer to get home than it is to never get there.

Glad you were able to recover the situation and make it home safely.
 
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