Driver Education & Road Safety


Do you ever recall watching a movie or sporting event on television, only to fall asleep and miss the exciting climax? Yet, you would probably concede that whatever you were watching was far more stimulating than some of the mundane driving trips you make.

Unfortunately sleepy drivers generally assess their ability to keep driving once they are already impaired by fatigue.. This approach could be likened to an alcohol impaired driver deciding whether or not they should be driving home once they are already drunk – in other words, your judgement is clouded.

The problem with fatigue, and more importantly its byproduct – sleep, is that it’s involuntary! The longer you are awake the more difficult it is to resist sleep. At some stage of sleep deprivation you will ultimately reach a point where it is literally impossible for you to stay awake.

The human body is subject to two circadian lows during a 24hour period (midnight – 7am and mid-afternoon). During these periods our body temperature and heart rate drop and we experience a decrease in mental performance. So between these hours, even the capacity of a well-rested driver will be moderately impaired.

Research suggests that if you have been awake (not necessarily driving) or 17hours, that you perform as poorly as a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. But it gets worse. After 24hours of wakefulness, a driver’s performance is equal to someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.10%

Fatigue related crashes are proof that sleep is involuntary; after all, how many people would deliberately choose to have a sleep whilst driving? Adding to the danger is the fact that fatigue related crashes are usually serious because there is no braking prior to impact.

Those drivers most at risk of fatigue include shift workers (particularly those working at night or long and irregular hours), under 25 year old drivers (particularly males) and drivers who experience sleep disorders. It is also worth highlighting that the onset of fatigue will be dramatically heightened by the consumption of any alcohol.

The most accurate predictor of fatigue is believed to be fluctuations in speed, although there are a range of other possible signs. So, the next time the eyes are feeling heavy, the hands are a little sweaty or you’re wandering across lanes, don’t wind down the window or turn up the radio – stop – and have a break out of the car, a cup of coffee, a power nap or simply find somewhere to spend the night.

The value of coffee, power naps, and breaks out of the car are short term. Never drive more than eight hours in any one day, and only ever use these fatigue minimilisation techniques as short term fixes – a good nights sleep is the only genuine remedy for fatigue.

Don't roll over in your sleep... recognise, respond and crash in bed instead.

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