Preventing driver fatigue

Driver fatigue is a serious problem contributing to thousands of road accidents each year. It is believed that it may be a factor in up to 20% of road accidents each year.

Driver fatigue results in slowed down reactions, a reduction in alertness and concentration, and can impact on judgement making it more likely that these individuals will be involved in a collision.

Read our guide to preventing fatigue and staying safe and alert at the wheel.

Recognising you’re getting fatigued
While it may seem obvious that you’re feeling tired, it’s good to recognise the signs that suggest you’re starting to lose focus on driving and could be in danger as a result.
• Increased difficulty in concentrating
• Trouble focussing or often zoning out
• Yawning or rubbing of eyes
• Heavy eyelids or straining to keep eyes open
• Feeling fidgety

Reasons for fatigue
Life can be tiring at times and certain situations can’t be avoided but try to be aware that you may suffer from driver fatigue if you’re in a situation like one of these.
• Changes to sleeping pattern
Disruptions in life may have an impact on your sleeping pattern, for example a new baby, work commitments or a very busy schedule. A change to your normal sleeping pattern can cause you to be less alert than normal.
• Irregular sleep patterns
Shift workers suffer from irregular sleep patterns as they often switch from day to night shift with little time allowed for their body clock to adjust.
• Time of day
Research has shown that drivers are most likely to fall asleep behind the wheel in the early morning (2 am and 6am) or afternoon (2pm and 4pm). The body clock has a natural dip at these times, causing an increase in drowsiness and reduced concentration.
• Stress
Stress can have many negative impacts on your body – including affecting the quality of sleep, which can result in tiredness and difficulty concentrating.
• Driving for long periods
Research has shown that drivers struggle to concentrate after two hours of continuous driving, and their reaction time decreases. Accidents are more likely to occur when the driver has been driving for long periods of time on monotonous roads such as a motorway.
• Medication
Many over-the-counter treatments, and some prescription drugs, can cause unwanted sleepiness and may result in impaired driving. Medicines which contain antihistamines can also result in fatigue.

Minimising the risk of driver fatigue
• Plan your route in advance
Planning your driving route in advance will familiarise you with the area and prevent distraction when on the road, but this also gives you the opportunity to take note of rest areas where you can take a break from driving, top up on refreshments and stretch your legs.
• Allow yourself time for your journey
Planning your journey to ensure you arrive in ample time allows you to take frequent breaks. It is recommended that drivers stop and take a break every two hours.
• Ensure you are well rested
To avoid driver fatigue, ensure you get plenty of rest – especially before a long journey. Try not to begin a journey if you are tired.
• Avoid long journeys between midnight and 6a.m,
Driving for long periods at night increase the likelihood of fatigue as natural alertness is at a minimum during these hours. If you drive during daylight hours you escape the glaring dashboard and road lights which make motorway hypnosis more likely.
• Stop and take a rest
If you are feeling drowsy – you need to pull over and take a break before you continue your journey. Having a coffee can help in the short term but ideally sleep will help the most and taking a nap will help you feel refreshed to carry on the journey more safely.

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