I have now often driven home late at night to return to my humble abode. Sometimes that means I'm in the hunk of metal flying down the road at 5 a.m. For you new drivers out there, or anyone else, here are some suggestions for staying safe out there at night.
1. Drink something. Coffee may not be best, as caffeine will lead to a mental crash and to dehydration. However, Power/Gatorade or a simple bottle of water can do wonders for the energy level.
2. Bring someone with you. If you know you'll be driving late, drag someone along, even if they can't drive. Having someone to talk to can really help you out.
3. Have someone to talk to. If you are driving alone, establish someone that you can call (using a bluetooth or wired headset with your cell phone) to keep you awake. My wife and mom are usually willing participants.
4. Take a nap. Honestly, the best thing you can do to fix sleepiness is to sleep. I suggest taking a 5-10 minute nap in a well-lit area (24-hour gas stations or restaurants are nice). If it is early in the night, this usually works extremely well. If this isn't enough, then you probably need to call it a night. Find a cheap hotel or something, but don't keep driving. It's better to get there late than to not get there at all.
5. Freeze out. Crank the A/C or open the windows in the winter. This usually works for about 2 minutes for me, but why not?
6. Do not drive from Great Bend, KS to Pomona, KS in 2 inches of snow from 1am to 5am in a car with 3 sleeping guys in it. Take it from me: it's no fun, a bad idea, and generally sucks.
I did all but number 3 tonight. I'm proud of myself.