Wake up to the signs of tiredness
Surprisingly, tired drivers contribute to nearly a quarter of all fatal and serious collisions on the roads each year.
Many drivers simply do not realise the dangers associated with driving while tired, but it’s an unfortunate fact that fatigue related collisions are more likely to result in a fatality or serious injury as tired drivers are less likely to apply their brakes or take evasive action to avoid the collision.
All drivers will get warning signs that they are getting tired, these can include: a nodding head, heavy eye lids, yawning, and drifting concentration. Don’t ignore these clear signs, by doing so you are risking not just your life, but the lives of the other road users around you as well.
It’s important to remember that tiredness isn’t just caused by a lack of sleep. Some medications, a heavy meal or a long meeting can also leave you feeling tired.
Be aware that driver fatigue isn’t just caused by lack of sleep. Travelling on motorways and other long, straight roads, especially in modern cars which are quiet, smooth and comfortable, can induce drowsiness and cause your mind to drift. Some medications, a heavy meal or a long meeting before you travel will also make you feel tired.
What can you do to avoid driver fatigue?
- Make sure you’ve slept well before travelling.
- Plan your journey to include a minimum 20 minute break for every 2 hours driving; make sure you rest properly and that it isn’t just a quick comfort break and a refuel.
- Avoid long journeys between midnight and 6am when your body is naturally sleepy; 2-4pm is similarly dangerous.
- Don’t drink alcohol at all before you drive, and avoid medication that causes drowsiness.
- Drink plenty of water.
- If possible plan to share the driving with a passenger.
- If you feel tired before you start your journey – don’t start your journey!
What can you do if you start feeling tired after starting your journey?
- Find a safe place to stop – not the hard shoulder of the motorway. Opening a window or turning up the radio will only help momentarily, so pull over as soon as you can.
- Drink 2 cups of coffee or caffeinated energy drinks and have a 15-minute nap while they take effect. Make sure you do not nap for longer, as any longer than 15 minutes will leave you feeling groggier.
- Should this fail to improve your condition, consider stopping overnight and continuing your journey the next day.
Driving at work
About 40% of fatigue-related collisions involve commercial vehicles where employees may feel pressured to make deadlines at the expense of safety. Check whether your employer has a policy to help prevent fatigue-related collisions, and ensure you take the recommended number of breaks while driving.