Every day you can see the appalling carnage on the roads on the evening news. Fatigue is believed to make a primary contribution to up to 30% of automobile crashes1, whether it is due to the driver falling asleep or from fatigue-induced inattention, failing to anticipate or impaired reaction times. If your work requires long-distance driving or if you are just planning a driving vacation, Here are some tips to help ensure that you not only survive during the long drive but you also thrive…
I have first-hand experience of the effects of driver fatigue…
It was the end of an enjoyable but exhausting Sunday family outing. After maintaining my concentration weaving the car throughout hidden country hills and valleys like a rally driver I welcomed the flat roads and traffic lights and relative order of the city streets. I pulled up at the red light and then a voice startled me…
“Paul! Go!” called out my wife.
“Huh? What?” I replied.
My heart pounded in sudden panic. “Oh my God. Did I just fall asleep? And with my wife and kids in the car!”
I had just experienced a frightening and dangerous form of driver fatigue that is called a “microsleep”. It was terrifying to experience it when I was stopped at traffic lights. I could only imagine the horror to experience it while travelling at 100 kilometres an hour on the open road.
Driver fatigue is like all other forms of fatigue with one major difference: fatigue on the road can kill. So what can we do to prevent driver fatigue?
Preventing Driver Fatigue Tip 1: drive during daytime when possible
Sunlight helps to keep you awake and alert. Driving requires a lot of mental energy and concentration. You are four times more likely to have a fatal fatigue crash if you are driving between 10pm and dawn2. That’s because your body’s circadian rhythms are programming you to sleep. So it is a lot safer to leave for your road trip early in the morning rather than driving through the night. If you must drive at night make sure that you light up the inside of your vehicle. Any light will help keep your sleepy melatonin levels low and help to keep you alert.
Preventing Driver Fatigue Tip 2: stop every two hours
This gives you a chance to physically and mentally freshen up. If you are feeling tired pull over and close your eyes for 10-15 minutes. This amount of rest will recharge you without creating a post-sleep drowsiness which can occur if you rest for longer than 15 minutes.
Preventing Driver Fatigue Tip 3: rub your adrenal pressure points
You can also rub the adrenal pressure points if you are feeling flat. They are located one inch out and two inches up from your belly button.
Preventing Driver Fatigue Tip 4: exercise before you drive
Exercise is one of the more invigorating and effective ways to fire up your body’s engine and alertness. Dr. Barry Brown from the University of Arkansas said that as little as 12-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can increase your metabolism (available energy) by 25% for the following 4 to 16 hours. That means 25 % more energy and alertness for you.
Preventing Driver Fatigue Tip 5: don’t drive while sleep-drunk
Don’t drive if you have been awake for 17 hours or more. You are an accident waiting to happen because being awake for this period of time has been shown to affect your concentration and performance equivalent to a blood alcohol reading of 0.05%!3,4
Preventing Driver Fatigue Tip 6: eat well on the road
Before your trip, pack plenty of fruit, nuts and chopped raw vegetables to snack on. Relying on the sugary and fat-laden meals from your typical roadside diner will cause result in an energy dip shortly after.
- Moore B& Brooks C (2000) “Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue: A Policy Adviser’s Perspective”, Proceedings 4th International Conference On Fatigue and Transportation, Coping With the 24 Hour Society, Fremantle 19-22 March 2000
- Road and Traffic Authority, NSW State Government, “Stop, Revive, Survive” Campaign
- Dawson, D., Reid, K., (1997) Equating the performance impairment associated with sustained wakefulness and alcoholic intoxication, Center for Sleep Research, University of South Australia.
- Williamson, A. et al (2000) Development of measures of fatigue: using an alcohol comparison to validate the effects of fatigue on performance, Consultant Report CR 189, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Canberra.