Fatigue -six tips to avoid being drowsy at the wheel
We all know the feeling of drifting off and letting our eyelids sag and gently drifting off into sleep – okay at home on the sofa but not good if one is behind the wheel of a motor vehicles.
Companies in particular need be aware of the dangers and be proactive in dealing with the deadly matter of fatigue.
We recognise that the issue is far more complex than just providing tips but at least let these serve as a reminder which can be shared in toolbox talks.
The sleepy six tips
Tip 1: Get enough sleep at the right times. Easy to say, but hard in this world of 24/7 alertness. But getting enough sleep before getting behind the wheel is key to avoiding fatigue. Also, there are certain times of day and night when you should avoid driving, if possible. Your body is naturally drowsy between the hours of 12am and 6am and from 2pm to 4pm. Additionally, a recent study suggests that driving safety-related incidents are highest during the first hour of driving after waking from sleep. So, even if you can’t avoid driving during the ‘drowsy hours,’ don’t rush to the vehicle as soon as you open your eyes.
Tip 2: Maintain a healthy diet. Skipping meals or eating at irregular times may lead to fatigue and/or food cravings. Also, going to bed with an empty stomach or immediately after a heavy meal can interfere with sleep. A light snack before bed may help you get a more restful sleep. It’s important to note that induced fatigue may cause slow reaction time, reduced attention, memory lapses, lack of awareness, mood changes and reduced judgment ability. Look for all the help you can get with your diet. Get to know the safe stops along your route that offer the healthiest selections of food.
Tip 3: Take a nap. If possible, you should take a nap when feeling drowsy or less alert. Naps should last a minimum of 10 minutes, but ideally, a nap should last up to 45 minutes. Allow at least 15 minutes after waking to fully recover before starting to drive. Studies show that short naps are more effective at restoring energy levels than coffee. Additionally, naps aimed at preventing drowsiness are generally more effective in maintaining a driver’s performance than naps taken when a person is already drowsy.
Tip 4: Avoid certain medications. Most drowsiness-inducing medications include a warning label indicating that you should not operate vehicles or machinery during use. Some of the most common medicines that may make you drowsy are tranquilizers, sleeping pills, allergy medicines, and cold medications. If you must drive with a cold, it is safer to suffer from the cold than drive under the effects of the medicine.
Tip 5: Recognise the drowsy signals. Indicators of drowsiness include frequent yawning, heavy eyes and blurred vision. Research indicates that being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally intoxicated and leaves you at equal risk for a crash.
Tip 6: Don’t fall for your own tricks. Smoking, turning up the radio, drinking coffee, opening the window, and other ‘alertness tricks’ are not real cures for drowsiness and may give you a false sense of security. You may feel more alert for an instant, but you won’t maintain a necessary level of alertness. In addition, excessive caffeine use can cause insomnia, headaches, irritability, and nervousness. If you must drink coffee to kick-start your shift, be aware that it takes several minutes for caffeine to get into your system and deliver the boost you need. So, if you are already tired when you first drink a caffeinated beverage, it may not take effect as quickly as you might expect. Moreover, if you are a regular caffeine user, the effect may be much smaller.
Takeaway for Managers
Make sure you have a policy that discourages drowsy driving and offer training to help your drivers stay alert on the road. Put your drivers on a realistic schedule. It will not only keep them and everyone else on the road safe but will also keep you in compliance and out of court.
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