The Dangers Of Driver Fatigue
If you are not alert you are less likely to be able to respond quickly to driving situations and are much more likely to have a car accident or crash. Some studies indicate that more than 30% of vehicle crashes are due to driver fatigue. Even this statistic could be low as driver fatigue is often not reported as a cause of an accident (even though it may have been involved).
When you are studying late or hanging out with friends, time can go by very quickly. You may not even know you are too tired to drive: one of the symptoms of driver fatigue is not realizing how tired you are. In point of fact, if you haven’t slept for 17 hours it is just as dangerous to be behind the wheel of car as if you had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.05. The more sleep deprived you are the more likely you are to have an accident. If you haven’t slept for 24 hours you are at the same risk of driving of someone with a Blood Alcohol Concentration as 0.10 which is two times the legal limit for alcohol. As your body tries to recover from sleep deprivation you can nod off for what is known as a “microsleep”.
Microsleeps can last a few seconds or go on for a few minutes. If you are driving when your body microsleeps even for just a few seconds you can lose complete control of your vehicle.
What about using caffeine to wake up?
If you are tired and you need to drive you can just drink coffee or an energy drink with caffeine and you will be fine – right?
The answer to that is a big no.
While caffeine may provide a small benefit in terms of alertness it is also more likely to cause more problems than help. If you are already fatigued, drinking caffeine products will take longer to get into your system, and if you drink caffeinated drinks on a regular basis there may be very little effect in terms of alertness. In addition, to get enough of an effect from caffeine you will probably have to drink enough caffeine that you will be subject to headaches, being irritable and nervous – none of which are conducive to good driving. There is also the possibility of a sleep rebound effect which can be dangerous.
What are the symptoms of driver fatigue?
It can be difficult to recognize signs of fatigue in oneself but basically if you are yawning frequently, blurred vision or trouble focusing, head nodding, “zoning out”, daydreaming, can’t keep your eyes open, or you don’ remember the last few minutes then you are experiencing driver fatigue. If you are a passenger in a car with a driver who exhibits these signs or starts to drift over lanes you need to make sure that the driver takes a powernap or another driver takes over the driving.
The best ways to avoid driver fatigue
The best thing to do to make sure you are alert enough for driving is to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep before driving. This is why it is never a good idea to start out on a long drive after work because you are already tired. Eating right can also keep you from being fatigued and that includes staying away from fatty foods that cause drowsiness. Observe the mantra of not drinking and driving and do not drive if you are taking medicine, including prescription meds or over the counter cold or allergy medicine that may causes drowsiness. If you are taking a long trip don’t drive more than 8-10 hours per day and take a break every two hours for at least 15 minutes.
Other tips include:
- Get out of the car, get some fresh air and some exercise on a regular basis.
- If possible share the driving. Get your passengers to tell you if you look tired or if you are showing signs of tiredness.
- Avoid driving at night. The chances of crashing are much higher late at night and early morning.
Don’t forget that the only cure for fatigue is sleep.
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Safe Driving – Kim