Staying awake and safe on the roads

Sheen Panel Service on 6 November 2020

Around 20% of fatal road accidents involve driver fatigue. One sleep study has concluded that a person who has been awake for 17 hours has a similar impairment as someone who has a Blood Alcohol Content reading of 0.50 — and this only increases, the longer that person stays awake.

It may be tempting to think driver fatigue only occurs on long-distance road trips. But it can actually affect even the shortest of trips. While driving for long periods can make you tired, in most cases, drivers are already tired before they get behind the wheel. So what causes driver's fatigue? And how do you prevent it? Let's find out.

At Sheen Panel Service, we understand that accidents can happen — no matter how much you try to prevent them. If you find yourself in a prang resulting from driver's fatigue, we can help you get your car back to its original condition with our quality panel beating service.

What causes driver's fatigue?

Drowsiness can be caused by a number of factors, not all of which stem from driving for long periods of time. Some common causes of fatigue include:

  • A lack of sleep
  • Driving overnight (when you would usually be sleeping)
  • Medical conditions or medication
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnoea

The only cure for sleepiness is sleep itself. No amount of energy drinks or stimulants will make up for it. Fortunately, there are ways that you can prevent driver fatigue and keep yourself, your family, and other road users safe.

How to prevent driver's fatigue

The only way to prevent driver's fatigue is by getting quality sleep before you set out on the road. If you feel exhausted when you get behind the wheel, don't drive. Or follow these tips:

  • Don't drive for more than 8 or 10 hours in a day
  • Take breaks — we recommend stopping every 2 hours
  • Share the driving, if possible
  • Don't drive overnight, or when you'd usually be sleeping
  • Avoid stimulants like energy drinks — they may give you an initial energy boost but the ensuing energy crash can leave you feeling more tired than before

Remember, if you feel tired you can always take a break. A 15-minute power nap can make the difference between a road accident and arriving home safely.

How to minimise the effects of tiredness

You can also take action to prevent situations which may make you feel even more tired. For instance, if the sun is shining in your eyes while you're driving, your eyes will strain to see the road. This will make them feel sore and tired, adding to the strain of feeling fatigued. Follow these tips to avoid compounding the effects of tiredness:

Avoid driving between 1am and 6am (when you might usually be asleep) and 1pm and 5pm (when the sun is harsher and can distract more easily). Here are some more tips:

  • Wear sunglasses when necessary
  • Wear prescription glasses if necessary
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Stretch your legs regularly
  • Circulate cool air through the car — people tend to get sleepy in warm cars
  • Listen to stimulating music or podcasts
  • Don't drink alcohol
  • Eat well-balanced, healthy meals at your normal mealtimes, if possible
person driving car

How do I know if I'm getting tired and should take a break?

When on the road, if you find yourself displaying any of the below symptoms, it's time to take a much-needed break:

  • Yawning
  • Rapid blinking due to heavy eyes
  • Daydreaming and not concentrating on the road
  • Stiff muscles and joints, or cramping

What is a microsleep?

If you find yourself nodding off, only for your head to jerk and wake you up, this is called a microsleep. Microsleeps usually last between 2 and 20 seconds, and the driver can't control when they'll happen. In many cases, you may not even be aware it happened — and no amount of stimulants will keep the driver awake.

If you feel your head growing heavy, even once, while you're on the road — take a break. A short nap may save your life and the lives of other drivers on the road.

Whether you're wide awake when you're behind the wheel, or you're feeling the effects of tiredness, accidents can happen. At Sheen Panel Services, we're here to help. Our expert panel beaters can get your car back to pre-accident condition.