Driving while tired is one of the most dangerous things you can do on our roads. Although it’s impossible to calculate the exact number of accidents related to driver fatigue, research shows it could be a major contributory factor in up to 20 percent of road accidents every year. Accidents caused by tiredness are also 50 percent more likely to result in death or serious injury, as drivers who have fallen asleep are unable to brake or swerve to reduce the impact.
World Sleep Month, held in March every year, was created to focus on the sleeplessness epidemic which is leading to increased levels of anxiety and depression around the world. So, we thought we’d do our bit to raise awareness of the dangers of driver fatigue and highlight the importance of staying alert behind the wheel.
The dangers of driver fatigue
It’s not just about staying awake on the road; it’s also about being alert. Fatigue can manifest in many different ways. It reduces your reaction times, concentration, alertness and the speed with which information is processed. The quality of decision-making can also be affected.
Almost all drivers will be aware that they are feeling sleepy and this is the critical time when a decision needs to be made. Many of those who continue driving probably underestimate just how serious the risks are, while others may actively choose to ignore them.
The warning signs
Research shows that normal sleep does not occur without warning. The typical symptoms of driver fatigue include:
- Increased difficulty concentrating
- Heavy eyelids
- Poor judgement
- Drifting across lanes
- An inability to remember the last few minutes
Our top tips for staying awake and alert on the roads
- Get plenty of sleep – Make sure you are in the optimal condition for driving by getting 8 hours of sleep the night before.
- The pre-drive nap – If you are driving in the evening or at night then take a quick 20-minute nap before you hit the road.
- The mid-drive nap – If you become drowsy while driving then you should pull over to a safe place or stop at the nearest service station to take a nap.
- Avoid driving between 2am and 6am – The biological body clock means we are at our sleepiest between the hours of 2am and 6am, so avoid driving between those times if you can.
- Eat a healthy meal before you leave – Avoid the temptation to grab fast food on the way and eat a healthy meal before you start. Whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables release energy slowly to keep you alert en route. Fast food will give you an initial sugar dump but leave you feeling tired and fatigued.
- Get some fresh air – If it’s warm and toasty in the car then you’re more likely to feel tired. Letting some fresh air in will help to wake you up, particularly if it’s cold outside. However, this is not a long-term solution. It only works temporarily so make sure you pull over at the next safe place.
- Stretch your legs – Sitting in the same position for extended periods of time will tire you out. Getting out and having a quick stretch every so often will get the blood pumping and keep your energy levels up.
- Stay hydrated – Dehydration is an immediate fatigue-causer so make sure you drink plenty of water. However, you don’t want to be going to the toilet every few minutes either, so drinking little and often is the key to success.
- Eat healthy snacks – Keep snacking throughout the journey, with fruit, cereal bars and a bag of nuts all providing the slow-release energy you need.
- Take your vitamins – Vitamin C and certain B vitamins can help to energise you and keep you awake on those long journeys. Just make sure you take them with food to aid absorption.
Protecting UK’s drivers
As well as tips to keep you awake on those long journeys, we also provide a leading range of insurance policies for taxi drivers, commercial drivers and young drivers to provide the essential protection you need. Call 01708 678 400 for your quick quote.