Fatigue is a Threat to All Road Users Almost everyone knows that driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is a deadly combination.

However, few people seem to realize the danger associated with driving while fatigued. In fact, drivers who become drowsy or fall asleep at the wheel contribute to thousands of crashes each year.

Driver fatigue is reportedly a factor in 10 to 20% of crashes worldwide. It affects driving in various ways, including slowed reaction time and lack of concentration. If your reaction time is just half a second slower while driving only 40km/h per hour, it will take two car lengths longer to stop.

Statistics indicate drivers who have not slept for 17 hours are comparable to drivers with a 0.05 blood alcohol level. Someone who has not slept for 24 hours has the same driving impairment as someone with 0.10 blood alcohol levels. This is concerning considering that fatigued driving does not receive the same attention or even legal consequences as drunken driving.

Although typically associated with long-distance driving, fatigue can set in after a long day at work, an outing at the beach, or virtually any activity. For the public in general it is imperative to understand the nature of the work of a truck driver. Apart from long hours and distances travelled, he often suffers from loneliness and pressure from the fleet owner to reduce the times spent on the road in order to attain maximum productivity. This can all lead to physical and mental exhaustion that manifests in reduced energy, motivation and concentration.

Emotional stress, illness, or boredom can also cause fatigue. Sun glare, a major factor in eyestrain, can contribute to fatigue. Overeating, drinking alcoholic beverages, or riding in an overheated or very cold vehicle can compound the effects.

What can you do to prevent tiredness from making you another crash statistic?

• Start any trip by getting enough sleep the night before – at least six hours is recommended.
• Wear good quality sunglasses,
• avoid heavy foods and,
• of course, don’t consume any alcohol during your trip.
• If you can, have another person ride with you, so you will have someone to talk to and who can share the driving.
• Avoid driving during your body’s downtime.

The problem with long-distance driving is that many people do not know, or choose to ignore, how much driving is too much. On long trips, schedule a 15-minute break outside the vehicle every two hours or every 160 km.

There is no rule to say how far you should drive at any given time, but no destination is worth risking your life. Don’t overextend yourself. Determine a reasonable distance in advance, and stop driving when you reach it.

Symptoms of driver fatigue

It is very difficult for drivers to accurately assess their own level of fatigue. The ability to self- assess becomes increasingly impaired as you get more fatigued, however the self-confidence in this ability remains.

Nevertheless, there are some warning signs to look out for, including:

• Trouble focusing, or narrowing of attention
• Head nodding, or inability to keep the eyes open
• Not remembering the last few minutes
• Poor judgement, slower reaction time
• “Zoning out”
• Daydreaming and wandering thoughts
• Constant yawning or rubbing your eyes
• You feel stiff your eyes feel heavy
• You wander over the center line or on to the edge of the road

Keep in mind that if you are experiencing any of these symptoms of driver fatigue, it is very likely that your driving performance is already impaired.

Avoiding driver fatigue on long trips

For long trips plan in advance so you know where you are going to take a break.

• Take a break at least every 2 hours.
• Plan to stay somewhere overnight if you are going on a long journey.
• Share the driving – and make sure the you rest when you are not driving.
• Try not to drive when you would normally be asleep (early mornings and late nights).

If you must stop along the roadway to rest, follow these precautions

• Stop at a roadside rest area. If no such facility is available, make sure that you are as far off the highway as possible.
• If it is after dark, find a lighted area to park.
• Give yourself a little outside air, but make sure that windows are closed enough to prevent entry from the outside.
• Lock all doors.
• Turn on your parking lights and turn off other electrical equipment.

After you rest, get out of the vehicle and walk for a few minutes to be sure you are completely awake before you begin to drive again.

Fatigue Management

Actively managing your driver’s performance by logging the number of hours driven and whether or not scheduled stops have been adhered to, tends to yield the best results.

This could be done with the help of your fleet tracking management system (Wizedrive Tracking Fatigue Report).

It is also important that the company’s policy in respect of drive time and rest time be communicated to the drivers every time before leaving on a trip.

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