For a long time now, we have been inundated with campaigns of, do not drink/drug and drive campaigns. However, another equally important accident-prone driving situation has long been ignored until recent years. This accident-prone driving situation is not easy to prove and has become a large and unavoidable part of life in this generation. Severe time constraints have pushed this generation to new levels of fatigue, tiredness, and exhaustion. Regrettably, these words have become synonymous with our generation, and unavoidably, we must travel in the same state.
Some of the worst accidents in recent times have involved severely tired drivers. Surveys have shown that every nine in ten drivers take to the road in spite of extremely high levels of exhaustion. In another survey almost 8% of drivers admitted to nodding off (fleetingly) at the wheel. Studies have indicated that most of these fatigue ridden drivers were 3 times more prone to anger and confrontational driving that they would under normal circumstances.
It is highly recommended that you avoid getting behind the wheel when too fatigued as it could be injurious to more that yourself. Case in point: refer to the Gary Hart Selby Rail crash about ten years ago.
Some things that you could do to reduce the effects of driving fatigue are:
- Keep your daily dose of driving to less than eight hours. If you are doing a cross-country drive, plan to break journey for the night.
- On long journeys plan breaks of fifteen minutes at two or three hour intervals. These breaks provide an opportunity to have a wash and freshen up.
- Keep active and engage your senses by conversing with the passengers in your vehicle.
- Turn on the lights in the vehicle, as it gets dark outside. Studies have shown that the human body produces a hormone called melatonin in response to darkness. This hormone helps the human body to sleep. Under normal circumstances, i.e. when you are at home, production of this hormone at dusk is desirable. However, when behind the wheel, the production and response to this hormone is extremely dangerous. Once melatonin is produced it is nigh on impossible to stay awake without at least a fifteen-minute nap. It is therefore highly recommended that you psych your body to delay production of this hormone until you break journey by switching on the vehicle interior lights and keeping your surroundings bright.
- A trucker’s tip to keep away sleep is to chew gum. It keeps your mouth active, prevents yawning, which in turn stops you from dozing off. The key is to keep chewing even after you mouth tires.
- Avoid big meals, as it is likely to make you drowsy. Instead, choose small snacks like potato chips, nachos or pop corn. Eat them slowly one piece at a time. If you choose tangier flavors even better. The tangy flavours will engage your taste buds and the activity of eating little pieces of food will keep the effects of fatigue away for a reasonable amount of time.
However, despite these tips, you should always remain attentive to your body responses when driving. If you feel the tiredness washing over you, look for the next safe spot, pull over and take a break, get some caffeine drinks or even a fifteen-minute power nap.
Remember, it is better to take a break and catch some sleep than to drive through your fatigue and never reach your journey’s end.
This article is authored by Mary Hanks, a driving instructor. She is also a popular automobile blogger and has contributed her articles to many leading blogs.