Drowsy driving: avoidance tips
Speak to most fleet operators and they will confirm that driving fatigue is a major problem and contributes to a significant number of accidents/ crashes. According to some experts up to 63% of insurance claims in heavy vehicles can be attributed to fatigue to a greater or lesser degree. It its vital therefore that we identify – before it’s too late – what the symptoms are and more importantly what we can do to negate the danger.
Drowsy driving is dangerous driving. Studies have shown that approximately 20% of all accidents are due to drowsy driving. Moreover, 41% of drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel.
All drivers are vulnerable to drowsy driving, but commercial drivers are at higher risk as they log more and often longer consecutive hours on the road than the average motorist.
Now is a good time to remind all drivers about the perils of drowsy driving as well as tips to avoid the problem. Experts offer the following advice:
The Signs of Drowsiness
Drivers can nod off without warning. Half of drivers who had a crash after falling asleep said they had no signs of tiredness prior to the incident. However, it’s easy to ignore the signs. So stay alert and if you find yourself experiencing any of the following, it is time to pull over:
- Difficulty focusing
- Yawning repeatedly
- Missing exits
- Drifting out of your lane
Enough Sleep Every Night
Experts on medical matters such as the Centers for Disease Control in the US recommends seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Moreover, a leading Road Safety organisation’s research found that missing just one hour of sleep can affect concentration and reaction time while on the road and raise your risk of a crash. With just five to six hours of sleep, a driver is almost two times as likely to get into a collision. Operating a vehicle with only four to five hours of sleep is like driving drunk, according to the experts.
Plan Road Stops Ahead of Time
Mapping out where you can pull over into a rest stop before you start the journey makes smart sense. Experts recommend stopping every 200 kms or every two hours.
Move Your Body
If you feel fatigued, take 10 minutes at a rest station to stretch your legs and do some jumping jacks. Move your body. A little bit of invigorating exercise can help you stay alert and focused once back behind the wheel.
Some experts say it’s good to carry gum on long drives. While there’s no hard evidence, chewing a piece of gum may trigger muscles and connections in the brain and help you wake up if you’re drowsy. Move the gum around in your mouth, chewing on the left side, the right side, and back again.
Pull Over and Nap
If you genuinely believe nothing else will work to keep you alert, pull off at rest stop and take a 10- to 20-minute catnap. Short naps can refresh and revive you.
With all the advice – easily applied – there is no reason any driver should fall prey to this dangerous situation.
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