CDL Practice Tests: Driving Safely

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Question #58 (1 of 10)

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Using a helper when backing can be helpful. What must you and your helper do before backing up?

  • Get the approval of dispatch and the customer or truck stop you are currently at
  • Work out a set of hand signals that you both understand. Agree on a signal for “stop."
  • Have the helper sign a waiver relieving the helper of any legal implications in case of an accident
  • Work out a method for signaling to cars that you're about to cross the street
Use a helper when you can. There are blind spots you cannot see, so a helper is important. The helper should stand near the back of your vehicle where you can see the helper. Before you begin backing, work out a set of hand signals that you both understand. Agree on a signal for “stop."
You will rarely use a helper once you get the hang of backing. It's often more confusing when people are shouting orders at you or waving their hands around.
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Question #96 (2 of 10)

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How quickly must you be able to stop?

  • Quickly enough to prevent the vehicle behind you from running into the DOT bumper on the back of your trailer
  • In less than 1/2 of the length of your vehicle
  • Within 100 ft if you're traveling at less than 50 mph
  • Within the distance you can see ahead.
You should always be able to stop within the distance you can see ahead. Fog, rain or other conditions may require that you slow down to be able to stop in the distance you can see. At night, you cannot see as far with low beams as you can with high beams. When you must use low beams, slow down.
Adjust your speed according to road conditions and visibility. If you can not stop within the distance you can see, then you're going too fast for conditions.
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Question #115 (3 of 10)

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What should you do if confronted by an aggressive driver?

  • First and foremost, make every attempt to get out of their way.
  • Ignore gestures and refuse to react to them.
  • All these are correct
  • Put your pride in the back seat. Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold your own in your travel lane.

2.10.3 – What You Should Do When Confronted by Aggressive Drivers

  • First and foremost, make every attempt to get out of their way.
  • Put your pride in the back seat. Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold-your-own in your travel lane.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Ignore gestures and refuse to react to them.
  • Report aggressive drivers to the authorities by providing a vehicle description, license number, location and, if possible, direction of travel.
  • If you have a cellphone, and can do it safely, call the police.
  • If an aggressive driver is involved in a crash farther down the road, stop a safe distance from the crash scene, wait for the police to arrive and report the driving behavior that you witnessed.
Do not escalate the situation! It's tragic how many avoidable accidents happen because drivers get emotional. Keep calm, put your ego in check, and remember you are a professional out there. You must perform to a much higher standard.
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Question #170 (4 of 10)

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If your drive tires (the wheels that put power to the ground) lock up from over-braking you can normally let off the brake and the tires will spin again. If the road is slick and the tires continue to slide, what can you do?

  • Stab brake quickly
  • Disable the ABS system
  • Push in the clutch
  • Turn the wheel left and right slowly and carefully

Drive Wheel Skids: Taking your foot off the accelerator can easily stop them. (If it is very slippery, push the clutch in. Otherwise, the engine can keep the wheels from rolling freely and regaining traction.)

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Question #178 (5 of 10)

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If you have an engine fire or a fire in the trailer:

  • Do not open the hood or the cargo doors
  • Disconnect the tractor from the trailer and move it away from the trailer
  • Make sure you have a type 3 fire extinguisher
  • Get into a service station as quickly as possible to put it out

With an engine fire, turn off the engine as soon as you can. Do not open the hood if you can avoid it. Shoot foam through louvers, radiator or from the vehicle’s underside.

For a cargo fire in a van or box trailer, keep the doors shut, especially if your cargo contains hazardous materials. Opening the van doors will supply the fire with oxygen and can cause it to burn very fast.

You do not want to open the hood or the trailer doors if there is a fire. You will supply more oxygen to the fire. Keep the hood or the trailer doors closed.
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Question #153 (6 of 10)

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If you lose your brakes going down a steep grade, which of the following is true:

  • Steering gently back and forth will create additional friction which will slow the vehicle surprisingly fast, even without brakes.
  • If your foot brake fades to failure, use the trailer hand brake. This will normally still work in an emergency
  • Do not use an escape ramp if at all possible. This is an outdated method of stopping. If you try to ride it out on the highway, your chances of surviving are better.
  • Use an escape ramp if it is available. If you do not use it, your chances of having a serious crash may be much greater.

Brake Failure on Downgrades. Going slow enough and braking properly will almost always prevent brake failure on long downgrades. Once the brakes have failed, however, you are going to have to look outside your vehicle for something to stop it.

Your best hope is an escape ramp. If there is one, there will be signs telling you about it. Use it. Ramps are usually located a few miles from the top of the downgrade. Every year, hundreds of drivers avoid injury to themselves or damage to their vehicles by using escape ramps. Some escape ramps use soft gravel that resists the motion of the vehicle and brings it to a stop. Others turn uphill, using the hill to stop the vehicle and soft gravel to hold it in place.

Any driver who loses brakes going downhill should use an escape ramp if it is available. If you do not use it, your chances of having a serious crash may be much greater.

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Question #97 (7 of 10)

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What is the safest speed to drive in heavy traffic?

  • The safest speed is that of other vehicles.
  • The safest speed is slightly slower than the vehicles around you
  • The safest speed is the speed of the vehicles in the lane furthest to the right
  • The safest speed is slightly faster than the vehicles around you
When you are driving in heavy traffic, the safest speed is that of other vehicles. Vehicles going the same direction at the same speed are not likely to run into one another.
Go with the flow! Now you know where that saying comes from. Well, at least I think so!
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Question #48 (8 of 10)

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What should you check before you even begin a vehicle inspection?

  • Make sure you are at least 100 feet from any fuel pumps
  • Check with dispatch to see if they have anything for you
  • Make sure no trees or signs are anywhere near the vehicle
  • Check That the Parking Brakes Are On and/or Wheels Chocked
Check That the Parking Brakes Are On and/or Wheels Chocked
You don't want to get run over by your own truck! Sadly, it has happened. Many accidents have happened because drivers forget to set the parking brakes or put chocks under the wheels.
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Question #83 (9 of 10)

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When measuring the "total stopping distance" at 55 mph, your vehicle will travel a minimum of how far?

  • 142 feet
  • 216 feet
  • 419 feet
  • 300 feet

Total Stopping Distance. The total minimum distance your vehicle has traveled, in ideal conditions, with everything considered (including perception distance, reaction distance and braking distance) until you can bring your vehicle to a complete stop. At 55 mph, your vehicle will travel a minimum of 419 feet.

You may have to know this number for the test, so memorize it.
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Question #140 (10 of 10)

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What may happen if you try to downshift after your speed has already built up while going down a mountain?

  • You will more easily be able to shift into a lower gear, increasing the engine braking force.
  • You may not be able to shift into a lower gear. You may not even be able to get back into any gear, and all engine braking effect will be lost.
  • The engine will rev higher and may go above the governed limit, which is fine as long as you're in the higher gear range. Over-revving the engine may cause damage in the low gear range, but not in the high range.
  • The clutch will not operate properly at higher RPMs so you won't be able to get the truck out of gear to downshift.

Shift the transmission to a low gear before starting down the grade. Do not try to downshift after your speed has already built up. You will not be able to shift into a lower gear. You may not even be able to get back into any gear, and all engine braking effect will be lost. Forcing an automatic transmission into a lower gear at high speed could damage the transmission and also lead to loss of all engine braking effect.

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About The Safe Driving CDL Exam

The Safe Driving portion of the CDL manual will be on the General Knowledge portion of the CDL permit written exam. This is a rather large section of the CDL Manual and also includes basic information on hazardous materials (HazMat) that all drivers should know. Here are the basics of what you must know:

  • Vehicle Inspection
  • Basic Control of Your Vehicle
  • Shifting Gears
  • Seeing
  • Communicating
  • Space Management
  • Controlling Your Speed
  • Seeing Hazards
  • Distracted Driving
  • Aggressive Drivers/Road Rage
  • Night Driving
  • Driving in Fog
  • Winter Driving
  • Hot Weather Driving
  • Railroad-highway Crossings
  • Mountain Driving
  • Driving Emergencies
  • Antilock Braking Systems
  • Skid Control and Recovery
  • Accident Procedures
  • Fires
  • Alcohol, Other Drugs and Driving
  • Staying Alert and Fit to Drive
  • Hazardous Materials Rules

Vehicle Inspections

Safety is the most important reason for completing a vehicle inspection. A vehicle defect found during an inspection could prevent problems later, such as a breakdown on the road that will cost time and dollars, or even worse, a crash caused by the defect.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge the vehicle to be unsafe, they will put the vehicle "out of service" until it is repaired.

Generally speaking the major things you'll be checking will be:

  • Tire Problems
  • Wheel And Rim Problems
  • Break Drums And Shoes
  • Steering System Defects
  • Suspension System Defects
  • Exhaust System Defects
  • Safety Equipment Present
  • Cargo Properly Loaded And Secured

Pre-Trip Inspection

In order to obtain a CDL, you will be required to pass a pre-trip vehicle inspection test. You will be tested to see if you know whether your vehicle is safe to drive. You will be asked to do a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle and explain to the examiner what you would inspect and why.

The pre-trip inspection is a long, exhaustive inspection and we're not going to cover it all here. But we do have an excellent pre-trip inspection in our forum, done by one of our moderators who is currently a trainer at Prime Inc.

Daniel's Pre-Trip Inspection

Questions You Should Be Able To Answer

Here are some questions you should be able to answer before taking your CDL permit exam:

  • 1. What is the most important reason for doing a vehicle inspection?
  • 2. What things should you check during a trip?
  • 3. Name some key steering system parts.
  • 4. Name some suspension system defects.
  • 5. What three kinds of emergency equipment must you have?
  • 6. What is the minimum tread depth for front tires?
  • 7. Name some things you should check on the front of your vehicle during the walk-around inspection.
  • 8. What should wheel bearing seals be checked for?
  • 9. How many red reflective triangles should you carry?
  • 10. How do you test hydraulic brakes for leaks?
  • 11. Why put the starter switch key in your pocket during the pre-trip inspection?

Basic Control Of Your Vehicle

To drive a vehicle safely, you must be able to control its speed and direction. Safe operation of a commercial vehicle requires skill in:

  • Accelerating - Speed up smoothly and gradually so the vehicle does not jerk. Rough acceleration can cause mechanical damage. When pulling a trailer, rough acceleration can damage the coupling.
  • Steering - Hold the steering wheel firmly with both hands. Your hands should be on opposite sides of the wheel. If you hit a curb or a pothole (chuckhole), the wheel could pull away from your hands unless you have a firm hold.
  • Stopping - Push the brake pedal down gradually. The amount of brake pressure you need to stop the vehicle will depend on the speed of the vehicle and how quickly you need to stop. Control the pressure so the vehicle comes to a smooth, safe stop. If you have a manual transmission, push the clutch in when the engine is close to idle.
  • Backing safely - Because you cannot see everything behind your vehicle, backing is always dangerous. Avoid backing whenever you can. When you park, try to park so you will be able to pull forward when you leave.

Backing Safely

When you have to backup, here are some simple safety rules:

  • Start in the Proper Position - Put the vehicle in the best position to allow you to back safely. This position will depend on the type of backing to be done.
  • Look at Your Path - Look at your line of travel before you begin. Get out and walk around the vehicle. Check your clearance to the sides and overhead, in and near the path your vehicle will take.
  • Use Mirrors on Both Sides - Check the outside mirrors on both sides frequently. Get out of the vehicle and check your path if you are unsure.
  • Back Slowly - Always back as slowly as possible. Use the lowest reverse gear so you can more easily correct any steering errors. You also can stop quickly if necessary.
  • Back and Turn Toward the Driver's Side - Back to the driver's side so you can see better. Backing toward the right side is very dangerous because you cannot see as well. If you back and turn toward the driver's side, you can watch the rear of your vehicle by looking out the side window.
  • Use driver-side backing - even if it means going around the block to put your vehicle in this position. The added safety is worth it.
  • Use a Helper - Use a helper when you can. There are blind spots you cannot see, so a helper is important. The helper should stand near the back of your vehicle where you can see the helper. Before you begin backing, work out a set of hand signals that you both understand. Agree on a signal for "stop."

Shifting Gears

There are a couple of special conditions where you should downshift:

Before Starting Down a Hill - Slow down and shift down to a speed that you can control without using the brakes hard. Otherwise the brakes can overheat and lose their braking power. Downshift before starting down the hill. Make sure you are in a low enough gear, usually lower than the gear required to climb the same hill.

Before Entering a Curve - Slow down to a safe speed and downshift to the right gear before entering the curve. This lets you use some power through the curve to help the vehicle be more stable while turning. It also allows you to speed up as soon as you are out of the curve.

More Questions You Should Be Able To Answer

  • 1. Why should you back toward the driver's side?
  • 2. If stopped on a hill, how can you start moving without rolling back?
  • 3. When backing, why is it important to use a helper?
  • 4. What's the most important hand signal that you and the helper should agree on?
  • 5. What are the two special conditions where you should downshift?
  • 6. When should you downshift automatic transmissions?
  • 7. Retarders keep you from skidding when the road is slippery. True or False?
  • 8. What are the two ways to know when to shift?

Stopping Distance

This is very important to know and may be asked about on your CDL exams:

Total Stopping Distance = Perception Distance + Reaction Distance + Braking Distance

Perception distance - The distance your vehicle travels, in ideal conditions, from the time your eyes see a hazard until your brain recognizes it. Keep in mind, certain mental and physical conditions can affect your perception distance. It can be affected greatly depending on visibility and the hazard itself. The average perception time for an alert driver is 1 3/4 seconds. At 55 mph, this accounts for 142 feet traveled.

Reaction distance - The distance you will continue to travel, in ideal conditions; before you physically hit the brakes in response to a hazard seen ahead. The average driver has a reaction time of 3/4 second to one second. At 55 mph this accounts for 61 feet traveled.

Braking distance - The distance your vehicle will travel, in ideal conditions; while you are braking. At 55 mph on dry pavement with good brakes, it can take about 216 feet.

Total stopping distance - The total minimum distance your vehicle has traveled, in ideal conditions; with everything considered, including perception distance, reaction distance and braking distance, until you can bring your vehicle to a complete stop. At 55 mph, your vehicle will travel a minimum of 419 feet. (See Figure 2.11.)

The Effect Of Speed And Weight On Stopping Distance

The Effect of Speed on Stopping Distance - The faster you drive, the greater the impact or striking power of your vehicle. When you double your speed from 20 to 40 mph the impact is four times greater. The braking distance is also four times longer. Triple the speed from 20 to 60 mph and the impact and braking distance is nine times greater. At 60 mph, your stopping distance is greater than the length of a football field. Increase the speed to 80 mph, and the impact and braking distance are 16 times greater than at 20 mph. High speeds greatly increase the severity of crashes and stopping distances. By slowing down, you can reduce braking distance.

The Effect of Vehicle Weight on Stopping Distance - The heavier the vehicle, the more work the brakes must do to stop it and the more heat they absorb. The brakes, tires, springs and shock absorbers on heavy vehicles are designed to work best when the vehicle is fully loaded. Empty trucks require greater stopping distances because an empty vehicle has less traction.

Identifying Slippery Surfaces

Sometimes it is hard to know if the road is slippery. Following are signs of slippery roads:

  • Shaded Areas - Shady parts of the road will remain icy and slippery long after open areas have melted.
  • Bridges - When the temperature drops, bridges will freeze before the road will. Be especially careful when the temperature is close to 32F.
  • Melting Ice - Slight melting will make ice wet. Wet ice is much more slippery than ice that is not wet.
  • Black Ice - Black ice is a thin layer that is clear enough that you can see the road underneath it. It makes the road look wet. Any time the temperature is below freezing and the road looks wet, watch out for black ice.
  • Vehicle Icing - An easy way to check for ice is to open the window and feel the front of the mirror, mirror support or antenna. If there's ice on these, the road surface is probably starting to ice up.
  • Just After Rain Begins - Right after it starts to rain, the water mixes with oil left on the road by vehicles. This makes the road very slippery. If the rain continues, it will wash the oil away.
  • Hydroplaning - In some weather, water or slush collects on the road. When this happens, your vehicle can hydroplane. It is like water skiing - the tires lose contact with the road and have little or no traction. You may not be able to steer or brake. You can regain control by releasing the accelerator and pushing in the clutch. This will slow your vehicle and let the wheels turn freely. If the vehicle is hydroplaning, do not use the brakes to slow down. If the drive wheels start to skid, push in the clutch to let them turn freely

More Questions You Should Know Before Taking The CDL Exam

  • 1. How far ahead does the manual say you should look?
  • 2. What are two main things to look for ahead?
  • 3. What's your most important way to see the sides and rear of your vehicle?
  • 4. What does "communicating" mean in safe driving?
  • 5. Where should your reflectors be placed when stopped on a divided highway?
  • 6. What three things add up to total stopping distance?
  • 7. If you go twice as fast, will your stopping distance increase by two or four times?
  • 8. Empty trucks have the best braking. True or False?
  • 9. What is hydroplaning?
  • 10. What is "black ice?”

Making Turns Safely

Right Turns:

Following are some rules to help prevent right-turn crashes:

  • Turn slowly to give yourself and others more time to avoid problems.
  • If you are driving a truck or bus that cannot make the right turn without swinging into another lane, turn wide as you complete the turn. Keep the rear of your vehicle close to the curb. This will stop other drivers from passing you on the right.
  • Do not turn wide to the left as you start the turn. A following driver may think you are turning left and try to pass you on the right. You may crash into the other vehicle as you complete your turn.
  • If you must cross into the oncoming lane to make a turn, watch out for vehicles coming toward you. Give them room to go by or to stop. However, do not back up for them, because you might hit someone behind you.

Left Turns:

  • On a left turn, make sure you have reached the center of the intersection before you start the left turn. If you turn too soon, the left side of your vehicle may hit another vehicle because of off tracking.
  • If there are two turning lanes, always take the right turn lane. Do not start in the inside lane because you may have to swing right to make the turn. Drivers on your left can be more readily seen.

More Questions You Should Be Able To Answer

  • 1. How do you find out how many seconds of following distance space you have?
  • 2. If you are driving a 30-foot vehicle at 55 mph, how many seconds of following distance should you allow?
  • 3. You should decrease your following distance if somebody is following you too closely. True or False?
  • 4. If you swing wide to the left before turning right, another driver may try to pass you on the right. True or False?
  • 5. What is a hazard?
  • 6. Why make emergency plans when you see a hazard?

Distracted Driving

Whenever you are driving a vehicle and your attention is not on the road, you are putting yourself, your passengers, other vehicles and pedestrians in danger. Distracted driving can result when performing any activity that may shift your full attention from the driving task. Taking your eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel presents obvious driving risks. Mental activities that take your mind away from driving are just as dangerous. Your eyes can gaze at objects in the driving scene but fail to see them because your attention is distracted elsewhere.

Activities that can distract your attention include: talking to passengers; adjusting the radio, CD player or climate controls; eating, drinking or smoking; reading maps or other literature; picking up something that fell; reading billboards and other road advertisements; watching other people and vehicles including aggressive drivers; talking on a cellphone or CB radio; using telematic devices (such as navigation systems, pagers, etc.); daydreaming or being occupied with other mental distractions.

Railroad Crossings

Railroad crossings with steep approaches can cause your unit to hang up on the tracks. Never permit traffic conditions to trap you in a position where you have to stop on the tracks. Be sure you can get all the way across the tracks before you start across. It takes a typical tractor-trailer unit at least 14 seconds to clear a single track and more than 15 seconds to clear a double track.

Do not shift gears while crossing railroad tracks.

Mountain Driving

Select the Right Gear Before Starting Down the Grade.

You must use the braking effect of the engine as the principal way of controlling your speed. The braking effect of the engine is greatest when it is near the governed rpms and the transmission is in the lower gears. Save your brakes so you will be able to slow or stop as required by road and traffic conditions.

Shift the transmission to a low gear before starting down the grade. Do not try to downshift after your speed has already built up. You will not be able to shift into a lower gear. You may not even be able to get back into any gear and all engine braking effect will be lost. Forcing an automatic transmission into a lower gear at high speed could damage the transmission and also lead to loss of all engine braking effect.

With older trucks, a rule for choosing gears is to use the same gear going down a hill that you would need to climb the hill. However, new trucks have low friction parts and streamlined shapes for fuel economy. They may also have more powerful engines. This means they can go up hills in higher gears and have less friction and air drag to hold them back going down hills. For that reason, drivers of modern trucks may have to use lower gears going down a hill than would be required to go up the hill. You should know what is right for your vehicle.

Proper Mountain Braking Techniques

Remember — The use of brakes on a long and/or steep downgrade is only a supplement to the braking effect of the engine. Once the vehicle is in the proper low gear, the following are the proper braking techniques:

  • 1.Apply the brakes just hard enough to feel a definite slowdown.
  • 2. When your speed has been reduced to approximately 5 mph below your "safe" speed, release the brakes.
  • 3. When your speed has increased to your "safe" speed, repeat Steps 1 and 2.

For example, if your "safe" speed is 40 mph, you would not apply the brakes until your speed reaches 40 mph. You now apply the brakes hard enough to gradually reduce your speed to 35 mph and then release the brakes. Repeat this as often as necessary until you have reached the end of the downgrade.

More Questions You Should Know

  • 1. What factors determine your selection of a "safe" speed when going down a long, steep downgrade?
  • 2. Why should you be in the proper gear before starting down a hill?
  • 3. Describe the proper braking technique when going down a long, steep downgrade.
  • 4. What type of vehicles can get stuck on a railroad-highway crossing?
  • 5. How long does it take for a typical tractor-trailer unit to clear a double track?

Stopping Quickly

If somebody suddenly pulls out in front of you, your natural response is to hit the brakes. This is a good response if there is enough distance to stop and you use the brakes correctly. You should brake in a way that will keep your vehicle in a straight line and allow you to turn if it becomes necessary. You can use the "controlled braking" method or the "stab braking" method.

Controlled braking: With this method, you apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking the wheels. Keep steering wheel movements very small while doing this. If you need to make a larger steering adjustment or if the wheels lock, release the brakes. Re-apply the brakes as soon as you can.

Stab braking:

  • Apply your brakes all the way.
  • Release brakes when wheels lock up.
  • As soon as the wheels start rolling, apply the brakes fully again. (It can take up to one second for the wheels to start rolling after you release the brakes. If you re-apply the brakes before the wheels start rolling, the vehicle won't straighten out.)

Do not jam on the brakes: Emergency braking does not mean pushing down on the brake pedal as hard as you can. That will only keep the wheels locked up and cause a skid. If the wheels are skidding, you cannot control the vehicle.

Becoming Sleepy Behind The Wheel

When you are sleepy, trying to "push on" is far more dangerous than most drivers think. It is a major cause of fatal accidents. Here are some important rules to follow:

  • Stop to Sleep: When your body needs sleep, sleep is the only thing that will work. If you have to make a stop anyway, make it whenever you feel the first signs of sleepiness, even if it is earlier than you planned. By getting up a little earlier the next day, you can keep on schedule without the danger of driving while you are not alert.
  • Take a Nap: If you cannot stop for the night, at least pull off at a safe place, such as a rest area or truck stop, and take a nap. A nap as short as a half-hour will do more to overcome fatigue than a half-hour coffee stop.
  • Avoid Drugs: There are no drugs that can overcome being tired. While they may keep you awake for a while, they won't make you alert. And eventually, you will be even more tired than if you had not taken them at all. Sleep is the only thing that can overcome fatigue.

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