Driver fatigue can strike at anytime. It is not restricted to drivers travelling long distances.
The QLD government defines “Driver Fatigue” as a general term used to describe the experience of being “sleepy”, “tired” or “exhausted”.
Fatigue is involved in up to 30% of all fatal road accidents and 15% of serious road accidents required hospital treatment. Due to the slow developing nature of fatigue, it is critical to recognise how likely you are to be fatigued prior to embarking on your journey and take the necessary precautionary actions before its too late. If you find yourself struggling to keep your eyes open whilst driving or begin to feel restless, please pull over safely and take five.
To put the danger of fatigue into perspective consider this – If you woke up at 5.00am this morning, stayed awake all day and are driving at 10.00pm tonight, your reaction times are likely to be in a similar vicinity to someone with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.05.
Some signs of fatigue to watch out for include the following:
- Repeated yawning.
- Slow reaction times.
- You begin to feel impatient.
- A desire to shake your head to remain alert.
- A desire to pump up the radio volume and open the windows to keep you awake.
- Excessive blinking.
- Restless legs.
- Muscle cramps or stiffness.
- Difficulty maintaining a constant driving speed.
- Difficulty maintaining your position within the lane.
The best way to combat driver fatigue is to carefully plan your journey before leaving. If you have a long drive ahead of you, we recommend that you make the decision to stop somewhere on the way to your destination prior to commencing your journey. Don’t simply say to yourself “I will see how things go and if I’m feeling tired, I will pull over”. We say this because if you make stopping on the way to your destination optional, you are much more likely to try and push things a bit further then is safe.
The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads recommends the following fatigue management strategies:
- Ensure adequate sleep of a minimum six consecutive hours in a single 24-hour period. However, seven to eight hours is preferable.
- Stop regularly, at least once every two hours for a short break on the drive to get out of the car and have a quick walk around.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear sunglasses if conditions are glary.
· It is important to always consider your current lifestyle situation to help you assess your body’s susceptibility to early fatigue. For example if you have had a massive day at work in the sun, are stressed, have played a big sporting match or have surfed all day, you are likely to experience driver fatigue earlier than you may expect and you need to take this into account when planning your journey.
Article by: Paul Bright, Business Development and Compliance Specialist.