Drivers need to be properly rested before setting off on long journeys, says road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist. The warning comes as thousands of families and couples make plans for summer holidays that could involve road journeys of several hundred miles.
Being tired when you’re driving raises the risk of a collision, because you’re less aware of what’s happening around you. Your ability to react is impaired if a risky situation develops. That’s why fatigue can be a factor in up to 20 per cent of all road collisions, and up to 25 per cent of fatal and serious crashes.
GEM chief executive David Williams comments: “A fatigue-related crash is around 50 per cent more likely to result in death or serious injury, simply because a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel will be unable to reduce speed or change direction to avoid a collision. The consequences can be devastating.”
Falling asleep at the wheel is easily avoided, but as David Williams continues, it’s vital you heed the many warning signs your body will give you before you actually nod off.
“No one simply falls asleep without passing through various recognisable stages of tiredness and distraction,” he says.
“You will experience difficulty focusing on the driving task, you may fidget, yawn constantly and rub your eyes frequently. When more serious levels of fatigue set in, you may find your thoughts constantly wandering away from driving, you may drift to the left or right, you may be slowing down without realising and you’ll suddenly find you cannot recall anything that happened in the past few minutes.
“At this stage your driving performance is seriously impaired, and it’s vital that you stop somewhere safe as soon as possible. A power nap and/or a caffeine-based drink can provide a short-term fix, but they should never be used as an acceptable substitute for proper rest. If you’re that tired, you must stop and rest properly.”
GEM offers a few simple tips for drivers to avoid reduce the risk of a fatigue-related collision:
- Get a good night’s sleep before you drive a long journey.
- Build in time to reach your destination (or your night-stop) without rushing. Remove time pressures wherever possible.
- Avoid driving alone for long distances if possible. Share the driving, and support each other by watching for any signs of fatigue.
- On long journeys, take a break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours or 100 miles. Get out of the car, do some exercise, stretch or walk. If necessary, have a caffeine drink or two to boost your alertness.
- Don’t press on into the night. Avoid driving at times when you would usually be asleep.
GEM’s short video on understanding the dangers of fatigue is available at www.motoringassist.com/fatigue.