Many of us immediately think of driver fatigue as the holiday thing, meaning that it is only important when we drive long distances during holiday periods. Not true! Driver fatigue is also not just falling asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle. There are many factors involved here.
It is just as big issue during our daily commuting as with long distance driving, if not bigger. Statistics and research show that most fatigue related crashes happens within twenty minutes from home or on trips of two hours or less. We tend to focus on the consequence or result, such as losing control, jumping a red light, inattention, etc. However, the foundation of the problem may well be tired drivers. There will be exceptions to this where drivers consciously make mistakes and where fatigue is not a factor.
Driver fatigue is one of the most underrated causes of crashes worldwide. Some countries estimate that driver fatigue is prevalent in as much as 30 percent of all injury crashes. Here in New Zealand the figure is around 20 percent. It was not until recent years that driver fatigue has officially been acknowledged as being a factor in crashes.
In general, there are several signs that indicate driver fatigue. The following is a list of common indicators:
Again, there are various reasons, but the following are the most common ones:
Micro-sleep is those few seconds you doze off whilst driving when you are fatigued. If you drive at 100km/h, the vehicle travels 27 meters per second. In this case, during a 4-second micro-sleep, the vehicle would have travelled 108 meters out of control! Scary if you may be one of the drivers approaching from the opposite direction, believing every vehicle that comes closer has a driver that is in control!
There are three sleep factors to consider before deciding whether to start driving – circadian rhythms, sleep debtandsleep inertia.
Our bodies are programmed by our body’s circadian rhythms to sleep at night and be awake during the day. During nighttime hours and – to a lesser extent – during afternoon siesta hours, most types of human performance are impaired, including our ability to drive.
Problems occur if we disrupt our natural sleep cycles like staying awake during the night, do not get enough sleep or get poor quality sleep.
You cannot reverse your Circadian rhythms. Even if you have been working nightshifts for many years, your body is programmed to sleep at night.
Adults generally need between seven and eight hours sleep per day, depending on the individual. Some experts say teenagers need 10 to 10.5 hours of sleep. If we do not get these hours of sleep or if we reduce it, we end up with a condition called sleep debt. The only way to resolve this is by getting enough sleep.
Sleep inertia is the feeling of grogginess you get after waking. It can affect your ability to perform even simple tasks. Sleep inertia is most dangerous for people who drive in the early morning hours, particularly shortly after waking from sleep.
Activity and noise should usually reverse it within fifteen minutes, but be aware it can last up to 4 hours. Its severity depends on how much sleep you had and at what stage of sleep you awoke.
Doing these things have not been proven to increase alertness.
On short trips in town, take a taxi, catch a bus, or ride with a friend or colleague.
Stop – Revive – Drive